Mental health
Substance abuse

President’s commission on combating drug addiction and the opioid crisis

November 14, 2017
Good morning, everyone. I hope you’re having a good start to the day. I want to talk to you about the president’s commission on combating drug addiction and the opioid crisis. I had an opportunity to download the commission report, which follow President Trump’s speech earlier in the month about the crisis. I want to share some points with you. It’s 138 pages long. I can’t tell you I’ve read every page, but I read what I think are the important bits.   We’re losing 175 people a day in this country to addiction and mental illness, which is staggering. To put that into perspective, if every day, we had a terrorist attack that killed 175 people, I think that gives you some idea as to the nature of what we’re dealing with. Can you imagine if, every day, someone walked into a mall with an assault rifle and killed 175 people? That’s staggering, and frankly, frightening. That’s the number that the commission came out with.   They say, “We’re in the middle of a nationwide crisis.” The top of the list of things they came up with was, “We need money.” I don’t think that’s a secret. I written, blogged, spoken and screamed about it. We need money. We’re front and center of the crisis down here in South Florida. According to the report, only 10% of people who need treatment are getting it. That just shocks me. Of the 175 that we are going to lose today, maybe 17 of them, in theory, have access to treatment. That’s pathetic. It’s not good enough. We have to do something about it. Hopefully something is going to be done about it.   They made a point that there is a requirement that insurance companies start to treat the diseases addiction and mental illness the same way we do for some type of physical ailment. The insurance companies shouldn’t give less coverage to someone who has an addiction issue as opposed to someone who is injured in a car accident.   They talked about drug court. Here in Palm Beach County, we have a drug court. A lot of the counties have drug courts here in Florida. Only 44% of counties in the United States have some form of drug court. We’re taking people that we could send through a court program mandating treatment and we’re giving them a criminal record.   I know from my experience of working 20-plus years in the criminal justice system that most of the people there are there because they have addiction and mental illness issues. We’re taking people that we could help, and keep them out of the system, and we’re punishing them. We’re throwing them in jail. That’s not making things better. It’s making it worse. In addition to treatment, they want to fund drug courts. I think that’s a great idea.   Apparently, they’re looking to do that in the federal system, too. I have a client who is serving time in

Addiction 911 Show: Getting Past the Stigma of Shame of Addiction

November 10, 2017
Thank you, Christina Rowe, for having me on the Addiction 911 Show to talk about “Getting Past the Stigma of Shame of Addiction”.

Recovery Radio Live with James and Blake

November 9, 2017
  It was an honor to be on the show to talk about the Marchman Act and how I can help people get the help they need. Thanks, James and Blake!

Unpause Your Life Podcast with Dr. Cali Estes

November 8, 2017
It was an honor to be on the Unpause Your Life Podcast. Our topic was How Mark Astor of Drug and Alcohol Attorneys Uses Legal Strategies to Save Lives.

My take on “forced” treatment from a Marchman Act petition filing

November 7, 2017
Good afternoon, everyone. It’s been an interesting week. We are finally at the end of the week. I don’t know if I’ve been this sleep deprived in a long time. It’s been an amazing couple of days. Yesterday, I was on the radio twice. I want to say a special thank you to my friend Nizan Mosery, who runs a show called The Travelling Investor. I want to thank him for having me on his show, which runs on iHeartRadio.   I also want to thank James Sweasey and Blake Cohen who had me on Recovery Radio last night. I spent two hours with those guys. They are truly inspirational gentleman who are doing amazing work to help other people who are dealing with issues of addiction and mental health. We didn’t just talk about addiction. We talked about some personal growth stuff. I had the opportunity to watch the guys at work. They are really dynamic together. If you get an opportunity, you should tune in on a Thursday night from 9:00 to 11:00 to listen to Blake and James go at it. They’re really terrific together.   I got an interesting email from someone who accused me of ambulance chasing and said that I was the addiction version of a personal injury lawyer. I have a lot of friends who are PI lawyers. My best friend is a PI lawyer. I didn’t think that comment was made in good taste. I think it’s insulting. The crux of the email was that I was forcing people into treatment, I shouldn’t be doing that, and that the Marchman Act is a horrible thing. They said that we should allow people to hit rock bottom.   When I took my subjective hat off and was able to be a little bit more objective, I thought about it. That’s ridiculous. That might have been a good argument 10 years ago when heroin wasn’t laced with Fentanyl and we didn’t have people drop dead like it’s going out of style. But we have people dropping dead. Someone hitting rock bottom may end up in the morgue. We have to get people into treatment. Waiting for people to potentially drop dead and taking that chance is insanity. As a result of getting that email, I’m going to triple my efforts to file as many Marchman Acts as I can. Then I know I’m going to be helping a lot more people.   A lot of people send me things saying, “We shouldn’t come to Florida for treatment because the treatment centers are all run by addicts. Why would we want to be in an environment run by addicts?” I say to them, “If you haven’t been to any kind of conference or networking event with people who work in the industry, you’re really missing out.”   One of the things we talked about last night on Recovery Radio was what it’s like to go to an event with other people who work in the

The Best Kept Secret in the Fight Against Drug Addiction

November 2, 2017
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

Treatment or no treatment, that is the question to ask…

November 1, 2017
Good afternoon, everyone. Audra Simovitch is our guardianship lawyer. She’s fabulous. We just had lunch with a colleague of ours who is also a mutual friend. He explained that he talked to someone who lost their child. He said, “How do you address the conversation with a set of parents when one parent wants to be the enabler and the other wants to practice tough love?” When he says, “tough love,” they’re wondering if they should kick their child out of the house. Should they cut them off?   Enabling means, “Should I give the kid money when he wants money? Should I let him go out when he wants to?” I’m using the word “he” but this is for boys and girls. The choice is not between enabling and tough love. Those aren’t the choices.   I tell parents every day that the diseases of addiction and mental health only get worse over time. They do not get better. That’s a fact. When you know that you’re dealing with a disease that only gets worse with time, then the choices are simple. That individual is going to the morgue, to prison or to treatment. Those are the choices. It’s not a choice of, “Should I enable or practice tough love?” It’s a choice of where that person is going to end up.   If you don’t want your child going to the morgue or prison, then you have to make the decision to get them into treatment. That’s the decision that has to be made. Treatment or no treatment. I think that part of the problem is that I’ve sugar coated things in the past. I was uncomfortable telling families that, if they don’t get their kid into treatment, they will either end up dead or in prison. I’m done with sugar coating things. If you do not get your kids into treatment, they will either end up dead or in prison. You have to get these kids into treatment. I realize that the 800-pound gorilla in the room is that treatment is not available to everyone. I appreciate that. I’ll be the first to agree with that statement.   The issue is, are we going to send these people to treatment or not? Expecting a child who has been dealing with addiction and has had a mental health issue for a long time to magically make the decision to stop using and put themselves into treatment is not realistic. As a parent, spouse or friend, you have to make that rational decision for them. They are not capable of making it for themselves. If they could, they would have done it already.   Stop worrying about whether you should enable or practice tough love. Decide that you’re going to get that person into treatment. If you don’t get them into treatment, they will either end up dead or in prison. That’s the choice that you have to make. We’re in the business of trying to save lives and

The National Opioid Crisis

October 31, 2017
Hello, everyone. Thank you for all the wonderful comments that I’m getting. I’m gathering that, from some of the things that are being said to me online and in person, the thoughts that I’m sharing with you are affecting other people. I’m not the only one who experiences different things during the day. I enjoy making these videos to share my thoughts and hopefully make a difference.   Last week, I thought I was feeling depressed. I’m going to be 51 in January. A friend of mine said, “You’re having a midlife crisis.” I said, “I’m normally a happy-go-lucky person. I don’t know if that’s true.” I called a friend of mine. She’s a licensed clinical social worker. I said, “I think I’m depressed.” She said, “How many people have you helped this week?” I looked at my calendar and realized I hadn’t been as busy this week as I would like to have been. I said, “I don’t think I helped that many people this week.” She said, “You’re not depressed, you’re bored. You need to go out there and help more people. When you help more people and give of yourself, you won’t feel depressed. You won’t feel bored. You’ll be happier.”   I took her advice. Thursday and this morning, I spent time calling former clients and getting back to people to see how things were going with them. It turned out, I was able to help a few more people. I feel much better. Sometimes we think we’re depressed. Maybe you are. Sometimes we’re not depressed. We’re so focused on ourselves that we lose sight of what we’re really here for, which is to help other people. I’m going to make more effort to help more people.   One of the things that we have in the works here at Drug & Alcohol Attorneys is a brand-new website that I’m building. I’m primarily building it because I think I can reach more people. If I can reach more people, I can help more people. That’s the foundation of our business model. It’s about helping more people, getting out there and making a difference. We’re building a new website. It should be up in the next four to five weeks.   I told my web designer that I want to have a bigger presence on social media. If I can have a bigger presence, then I can help more people. The underlying philosophy here is to help more people. By helping more people, I can grow a bigger business and help more people. Then I won’t call my friend to tell her I’m depressed when, really, I just need to help more people.   I had an opportunity to watch the president’s speech yesterday about the opioid addiction crisis health issue that we have in this country. While I’m happy that the president recognizes that we have a significant problem, my thought is this. Show me the money. Show us that you’re willing to put your money

What I do when there’s nothing on my calendar…

October 30, 2017
Good afternoon, everyone. This is the first video that I’ve shot in my office. I’m sitting at my desk. This is where I do my thing. This is where I come every day to get work done and meet with clients. I come in here to get things done. Today, I didn’t have any appointments set. I’m one of those people who, if there’s not enough going on, I get frustrated. I don’t know if I get depressed, but I think I get bored.   I need the stimulation. I need to be in the fight. I need to be helping people. I spend a lot of time listening to personal growth and self-help audio books. One of the people that I’ve been listening to a lot lately is Grant Cardone. Grant is based in Miami. He’s a self-made guy. He puts out a lot of amazing content. He’s in recovery. Between the ages of 15 and 25, he was using drugs and alcohol as a way to drown out the pain of losing his father at an early age. He’s been a significant source of inspiration for me.   Normally, when I’m in the gym in the morning, I listening to something that he’s put out. He puts a lot of content out on YouTube. He also has some really great audio books. As someone who doesn’t have time to sit down and read, I listen to a lot of audio books. While I’m tuning up my body, I’m also working to tune up my mind. It gets my mind set straight to come into work, into this office, get things done and try to help as many people as I possibly can.   Today I came in and didn’t have any appointments booked. One of the things that Grant Cardone talks about is touching base with some of your old clients. That serves two purposes. First, your former clients can be a great source of business. You reach out to a former client and it turns out that they need your help or a referral to someone who can help them. You can help former clients. Second, it lets people know that you’re still thinking about them and you still care about them.   Sometimes as lawyers, we lose sight of the forest for the trees. We’re so busy doing our thing. We’re focused on the next file in front us. We forget the other people we may have helped in the past. I reached out to a couple of clients today, one of whom had come to me for counsel about a potential Marchman Act. He was also working on potentially getting divorced. It turned out that he was able to get his then-spouse into treatment. She’s now in treatment. He’s taking care of the kids. He’s under enormous pressure and strain. He said to me, “I need help. I need someone to talk to. I feel like I’m starting to lose my mind.” I was able

My Latest Guest Appearance on the Addiction 911 Show

October 27, 2017
On October 19th, I was honored to be invited to be a guest on the Addiction 911 Show with Christina Rowe. The topic was How To Help Your Addicted Loved One.

Why I spend so much time and effort talking about the Marchman Act

October 23, 2017
Good morning, everyone. I just got done with a workout. I have my IU baseball cap on that I bought this weekend after spending a couple of days with a good friend in Indiana. I came back with a cold. This week was tough. Every day, I get up and try to spread the word about what I do. I encourage you to do the same.   One of the questions that I’m asked about is why I spend so much time and effort talking about the Marchman Act. We live in a world where we go about our own business. When we see an opportunity to make a difference, we turn a blind eye. I don’t know why that is. I don’t think it’s because people are bad. We’ve become a society where we’ve forgotten that we are our brother and sister’s keeper.   I still maintain that we are our brother and sister’s keeper. After 23 years of working predominantly in the criminal justice system, I’ve come to the conclusion that someone who is an addict or with a mental health issue can only go to one of three places. They are the morgue, prison or treatment. That’s it. There’s no other place that these people can go. The other thing that I know for sure is that addiction and mental health only get worse with time. They don’t get better. As time goes on, the likelihood of the first option of the morgue and the second option of prison become increasingly more likely. I haven’t yet figured out how to deal with option one. I routinely have to deal with option two.   I’m passionate about the Marchman Act because I believe that it is a way to make sure that option three happens so that one and two don’t happen. If you know someone who is in crisis or a family dealing with this, be their brother’s keeper. Say something to them. Let them know that there is a way to get someone into treatment. It doesn’t matter if you refer them to me. I would appreciate if you did. Say something to them. You can help someone.   The other question I am asked often is if I do pro bono work. Yes, but it’s limited. I’m a solo small firm. I’m building my business one family, one client and one young person at a time. As my business grows, I can help more people. As I help more people, my business will grow. Then I can do more pro bono. One of the reasons that I like to share my thoughts with you is because I want to help more people. Then I can grow my business, help more people and do more pro bono work.   It’s clear that there’s some inequity in our system. Not everyone has access to treatment. Not everyone has access to private counsel. I think that’s a terrible shame. As members of the bar, I think it’s incumbent

Keep Moving Forward

October 17, 2017
Hi, everyone. I am coming to you today from Memorial Stadium, which is the football stadium for Indiana University. I decided to take a weekend off. My dad told me many years ago that, the older we get, the faster the time goes. He was absolutely right.   It’s almost 30 years since I was last at Memorial Stadium. I came with my close friend, Phil Slotnick, who is a personal injury lawyer in Tampa. We came here to visit his cousin Kenny about 30 years ago. Michigan was playing Indiana, and here we are today, visiting his son who is a freshman at Indiana University. I’m watching my Wolverines play Indiana. The people in Indiana are unbelievably friendly. They have been welcoming.   We’re sitting with a bunch of IU fans. They are unbelievable people in the Midwest. I really appreciate being here. The weather is phenomenal. I bought myself an Indiana hat. I’m wearing my Michigan t-shirt. This is the t-shirt I bought in college. I only wear it during games. It’s pretty old, but I bring it out when it’s game time. I’ve really appreciated all the feedback I’ve been getting on my videos. It has motivated me to share a lot more of the personal side of my practice, which is helping families and individuals who are in crisis because of addiction and mental health.   When you give of yourself, as myself and my colleagues do in our practices, it’s tiring. Yesterday before I got on the plane, I felt like I was getting a cold. I said to myself, “Do I need to do this? Do I need to spend a weekend away with a friend?” I’m glad that I did. On the way here to the game, I got a call from whose child is in Florida and having issues. While I was sitting at the game, I got another call about a family that is in crisis. When you start to get those calls, you realize how important it is the work that we do. I don’t think it just applies to me and what I do. It applies to anyone who is building a business, trying to help people. I know lots of people who are doing that.   When you’re feeling tired, down and like you’ve had the energy sucked out of you, keep moving forward. It’s not always easy to do. On the days where I don’t feel like working as hard as I usually do, or when I go to the gym and don’t feel like being as intense as I normally am, I try to put one foot in front of the other. Maybe I don’t move as quick, but I keep moving forward. That’s the important thing. Keep moving forward.   I have flashbacks to the famous scene in Rocky when he is standing on the side of the street, giving his son a lecture about life. I think it was Rocky IV. The son was
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