One of the tools to help a family gain control over substance abuse and mental health disorders



I am an Attorney in the Law Firm Drug and Alcohol Attorneys in Boca Raton, Florida; our firm specializes in helping families in crisis because of substance abuse and or mental health disorder. Deaths from substance abuse has reached epidemic proportions. Deaths from mental health disorders are also increasing and we only have to look in our own backyard for a school shooting. My partner Mark Astor uses the Marchman Act a legal process by which someone can be involuntarily committed for substance abuse. I use the Guardianship statute as a legal means to get someone into treatment and to be medication compliant for a mental health disorder.

It is not uncommon for either one of us to get a call in the late evening or on the weekends from a crying mother or father because they have no-where else to turn and their son or daughter is out of control. Their child is self-medicating with street drugs instead of taking their prescribed medication to treat their mental health disorder; or their child is refusing to go to treatment and had to be Baker Acted for the fifth time. These situations not only affect the person with the mental health disorder but the entire family causing disruption, chaos, and guilt.

The Guardianship statute in Florida found in Chapter 744 provides a framework for which the court will allow another person to step into the shoes of this incapacitated individual and start making decisions for him or her. More often than not, the use of the Guardianship statute starts because of an emergency situation, the alleged incapacitated individual has threatened suicide, has left Against Medical Advice from a hospitalization or treatment facility, or the individual is not eating, sleeping, bathing or has spent his or her last penny on an abusive partner. A petition for Emergency Temporary Guardianship establishes that without a Temporary Guardian being appointed the individual or “alleged incapacitated person” will be in imminent danger to his person and or property. A hearing on this Petition, depending on the county of filing, will usually occur within 48 to 72 and relief granted.

The Baker Act, a Florida involuntarily commitment statute, can often be used when someone is an immediate threat to himself or herself, but this often will not hold someone for more than 72 hours and usually the individual is released to often re-appear in the same facility a week later in the same situation. The Baker Act does not serve as a longer term means of getting someone into an inpatient long-term treatment program for a more comprehensive treatment.

The Emergency Temporary Guardianship and ultimately Permanent Guardianship, allows a family member usually the mother or father to be granted authority to consent to their son or daughter going into in-patient treatment. An Emergency Temporary Guardianship is good for up to 90 days and can be renewed for an additional 90 days. Increasingly, I have been asked by the Guardian to request an Order be granted by the Court giving the Guardian not only the authority to consent to treatment for their son or daughter but also the authority to allow them to consent to medication by injection for monthly relief so daily oral medication is not needed. Since an injection is forced upon the body a court order is usually needed before the doctor or nurse administering the prescribed medication will administer against the wishes of the alleged incapacitated person.

While no one can guarantee the outcome of any situation when it comes to mental health our firm uses the legal process to give control in an out of control situation. I have often found that eventually the individual suffering from a mental health disorder is further harmed by being continuously subject to being Baker Acted which usually requires the police taking them to a hospital. Guardianship offers a family control over their loved so that he or she can participate in long-term treatment so that he or she can learn to live with their mental health disorder and lead a healthy and productive life. If you want more information regarding Guardianship or the Marchman Act please check out or website at: www.drugandalcoholattorneys.com or call our office at 561-419-6095.

Written by Audra Simovitch, Esq.
Drug and Alcohol Attorneys
www.drugandalcholattorneys.com
January 23, 2019