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Did you know that in Florida you can petition the court to have your loved one receive court-ordered rehab? This controversial provision is available to families in only a few states and Florida is one of them. At Transitions Recovery Program, we have experience working with court-ordered rehab patients and we have seen the pros and cons of the Marchman Act in action first-hand. 

Today, let’s learn more about the Marchman Act and look at some different ways we’ve seen involuntary addiction treatment play out in real life. 

What is the Marchman Act?

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It is a unique provision in Florida law that allows judges to court-order rehab for individuals who are abusing alcohol or drugs. 

The person receiving the order must be found not to be in control of their actions (what the act calls “substance abuse impairment”). Additionally, the individual receiving the court order must either be a danger to themselves or be “in need of substance abuse services” while lacking the ability to “appreciate his or her need for such services.” Most people with active addiction in their lives will fit this criteria. 

The petition for the court order can come from law enforcement or it can come from the family and/or friends of the individual. If it comes from non-related persons, the petition must be made by 3 or more people with first-hand knowledge of the substance abuse. These petitions must be “made in good faith.”

After a petition is filed, a judge will arrange for a hearing within 10 days. At the hearing, if the individual is found to meet the criteria, the judge will order them to submit to involuntary assessment for 3 days where they will be observed by addiction treatment professionals and undergo an evaluation for Substance Use Disorder. If the addiction treatment professional recommends that the individual get treatment, the judge will court-order up to 60 days involuntary treatment. If, at the end of 60 days of treatment, the judge feels that an extension of the court-order is necessary, they have the option to extend the order up to 90 days. 

How to File a Petition

filing a petition for the marchman act in florida

  1. Verify that a bed is open at the treatment facility of your choice. Make a note of who you talked to at the facility and at what date and time the admission can take place. This is required information for filling out your petition.
  2. Next, the most inexpensive option is to fill out a Marchman Act Package at your local county courthouse. This will include a sworn affidavit as well as a Petition for Involuntary Assessment and Stabilization. If you want help with the process, contact a lawyer or interventionist to help you with the legal process but keep in mind this will increase the costs of filing your petition.
  3. Attend the hearing the judge sets after receiving the package. 
  4. Ensure the individual you are filing for submits to the initial assessment. 
  5. File a Petition for Treatment with the court.
  6. Attend a second hearing to review the assessment, where the judge will order a 60 day treatment, if appropriate.
  7. Assist the individual in attending and securing financing for treatment.
  8. Ensure the individual attends treatment and follows their treatment plan. 
  9. Report any violations of the judge’s order to the court. If the individual leaves treatment early, the judge has the power to hold the individual in contempt of court if they do not return. 

Why Treatment Accessed Through the Act Sometimes Doesn’t Work

There are several reasons why treatment accessed through the Marchman Act might not be effective. Here’s a few of the major drawbacks:

  • It isn’t free addiction treatment. The state will only pay for addiction treatment if the individual is low income and eligible for state benefits. If they’re not eligible for state benefits, then the individual — or their private insurance — is still responsible for treatment costs. 
  • It doesn’t send people with SUD (substance use disorder) to lock-down treatment facilities. People who are court-ordered to attend rehab can leave treatment whenever they want. The judge may threaten jail time as a consequence for contempt of court, but this is rarely enforced. 
  • Because of HIPAA laws, petitioners will not know if the individual has, in fact, accessed treatment or remained at a treatment program. Addiction treatment centers are not allowed to disclose this information due to medical privacy laws, so unless your loved one is honest about their treatment experience, you won’t know much about the process as it’s happening.
  • In general, your loved one will have to want to get sober in order to stop abusing drugs and alcohol. Successful treatment takes a great deal of hard work and personal investment. A patient must engage with their treatment plan and adhere to their treatment team’s recommendations. An involuntary stint at treatment might help some, but for many, without the internal motivation to make changes, long-term sobriety will not be achieved.
  • You need to find a treatment center with beds available in order for the judge to approve the petition in many cases. Depending on the availability of beds and the level of care needed, this can be difficult. You can start your search at Transitions Recovery Program, where we have a lot of experience dealing with court-ordered rehab patients. 

When Treatment Without the Marchman Act Simply Isn’t Possible 

Despite these drawbacks, there are many people who would never have sought help for themselves without receiving an order from the judiciary. Many families credit the Marchman Act with saving their loved one’s life when nothing else could. Some individuals find that being detained, even for the fews days as part of the initial assessment period, gave them the clarity of thought to recognize that they have a problem. Once acute withdrawal is complete, there are fewer barriers between an addict and recovery. For some, it offers this all-important window of opportunity for change.

Have Additional Questions?

One of your first steps will be to locate an appropriate treatment facility for your loved one and verify that beds are available. This information is a required part of filing a petition. Contact Transitions Recovery Program today at 1-800-626-1980 and we will be happy to assist you with planning for your loved ones’ Marchman Act treatment.