The Centers for Disease Control estimate that 114 people a day die because of drugs (TIME magazine offers a much higher estimate), and 6,748 will be sent to hospital emergency rooms for treatment. While addiction and substance abuse are undoubtedly major problems in the US, a survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration found that as many as 90 percent of people who most need drug rehab do not receive it.
The best kept secret in the battle against the opioid epidemic in Florida is the Marchman Act, a critical piece of life saving legislation that has been on the books since 1993. The Marchman Act permits the involuntary commitment of an individual suffering from a drug or alcohol substance abuse disorder.
After an ex parte petition is filed and reviewed for legal sufficiency, the Court can order an individual to be assessed for up to five (5) days and thereafter involuntarily committed for up to ninety (90) days. If the individual leaves treatment prior to completion of the Court ordered treatment, contempt proceedings can be initiated and a pick up order requested. The Court can use the threat of incarceration to “leverage” the individual back into treatment.
I am fortunate and proud to have a brother who is a doctor currently finishing up his residency at Mount Sinai hospital in Miami. He has shared the horror of working in the Emergency Room and treating a child who has been brought in after suffering a heart attack caused by opioid ingestion. “There is nothing worse than having to tell a mother and father that their 18, 19, or 20 year old child is gone because they suffered a heart attack after shooting up with heroin. The brain cannot survive when it’s been starved of oxygen for ten or fifteen minutes.”
I speak to lawyers, medical personnel and families on a regular basis and I am shocked that few, if any, have heard of the Marchman Act and how it can be used to save lives. 80% of people in treatment in South Florida are from other states, some treatment centers spending upwards of $100,000 a month to advertise and attract clients to our state for addiction treatment, yet few families are being told about the Marchman Act and how it can be used to protect patients who are at risk of walking away from treatment.
We are fortunate that our local State Attorney here in Palm Beach County is working diligently to rid our county of bad actors. Kudos to Dave Aronberg, Alan Johnson and the rest of the Sober Homes Task Force for the work they are doing. That being said, we cannot rely solely on law enforcement or the treatment industry to fix this problem. As members of the legal community, we are perfectly placed to hear our neighbors’ cries for help and we must encourage those in crisis to get help, let them know that they are not alone in this fight. This disease affects about one third of all families in the United States, so the other two thirds cannot sit idly by while people suffer.
I work with an incredible team of professionals who are ready, willing and able to help. I do not charge for a consultation or for access to my resources. So, if you know a family in crisis, encourage them to reach out for help.