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How a Marchman Act Really Works

When a loved one is addicted to alcohol or opiates, it is almost always more than family or friends can manage on their own. In the State of Florida, the Marchman Act is a statute that can help you get emergency care for someone battling addiction. The state court system can provide for either a voluntary or involuntary assessment and stabilization of a person abusing drugs or alcohol, as well as provide treatment for it. Many people have heard of the Marchman Act, but are not completely sure how to use it. Here’s how the Marchman Act really works.

Getting Help With a Marchman Act

To get help from the Florida court system someone has to file a petition with the county clerk of courts to have the substance abuser evaluated. The least expensive option for the filing is to get the required packet at the Clerk of Court’s office and do it yourself. Keep in mind though, that any mistakes or missing details in the petition can cost you precious time. So, if you choose to do the petition yourself take the time to do it right.

The next option seems obvious but may not be. When dealing with the courts, you hire a lawyer to represent you. Remember though, that a lawyer can help you prepare for the filing and represent you at the hearing, but usually is not involved in treatment for the patient.

The third option when implementing the Marchman Act is to hire an intervention counselor who specializes in the entire process. An intervention counselor can file a petition, as well as guide you through setting up a treatment plan to ensure that your loved one receives the care that is needed.

Marchman Act Guidelines

In the United States the basic rights of privacy and personal freedom are among our most highly cherished values. Thus, it’s no surprise that legislation such as the Marchman Act is controversial and makes many people uncomfortable.

That’s why those who crafted the law more than 25 years ago included highly specific rules, regulations and guidelines. They spelled out precisely what could be done under the Act and what could not be done. In short, the Marchman Act provides for legal protection and formal representation of any individual who is the target of this manner of intervention.

Several criteria must be met to apply the Marchman Act to a person. These include:

* The person must have become impaired due to substance abuse.
* The person be must a threat to themselves or others.
* The person must lack the the ability to appreciate the benefits of treatment.
* The person with the addiction must “not care.”

Thousands of people have been remanded to treatment for substance abuse since the Marchman Act was enacted in 1993 — and there are thousands of success stories.

Who Has the Authority to Request Action Under the Marchman Act?

A Marchman Act filing must be initiated against the alleged impaired individual in the Florida county where said individual resides. The filing must be prepared and submitted by a person who is recognized by the court as someone who has standing to do so. That’s usually includes family members and law enforcement. The filling must be submitted in good faith by someone who has direct knowledge or who has seen the danger presented by the impaired individual’s behavior. The filing party must also provide evidence that the impaired individual does not have the capacity to make decisions for themselves.

What Rights Do the Patient Or Their Loved One’s Have?

Once an individual is placed in an involuntary treatment program, the court essentially takes temporary control over their life. The individual must report for and stay in treatment as per the court order. While rehab centers don’t have bars, any attempts by the patient to leave treatment before its conclusion will result in them being brought back into court. Any further non-compliance could result in contempt of court charges. Neither the patient nor their loved ones have any say in the length of treatment or which treatment facility is selected. Once the patient has entered treatment, only the court has access to progress reports without the patient’s written authorization. Once the patient successfully completes treatment and shows the capacity to care for themselves, they will be released from the grips of the Act.

How are Voluntary and Involuntary Marchman Act admissions different?

A voluntary admission is when a person who wishes to enter treatment for substance abuse services applies to a service provider for voluntary admission. An involuntary admission is when there is good faith reason to believe the person is substance abuse impaired and, because of said impairment, has lost the power of self control over their substance use; either has inflicted, attempted or threatened to inflict or is likely to inflict physical harm on himself/herself or another; or the persons judgment has been so impaired because of substance abuse that he/she is incapable of appreciating the need for substance abuse treatment.

Are There Other Criteria to Know If a Marchman Act is Appropriate?

Yes. There is additional criterion for a voluntary and involuntary Marchman Act. For example, a minor may seek voluntary admission for substance abuse services without parental or guardian consent. A law enforcement officer may take a person into protective custody when the minor or adult appears to meet the admission criteria and is brought to the attention of law enforcement officer in a public place.

How Do I File a Marchman Act?

If you have personal knowledge of a person’s substance abuse problem and because of this impairment the person has lost the power of self control with respect to substance abuse and you have reason to believe that that person is a danger to him/herself or others you may file a Marchman Act petition. You will need to contact a licensed service provider treatment center to confirm that a bed is available for that impaired person.

Where Do I File a Marchman Act?

In Palm Beach County Florida you may file a Marchman Act petition at the County Courthouse located on 205 North Dixie Highway West Palm Beach, Florida in the Mental Health Office.

What Do I Need to Bring with Me?

You will need to bring some identification (including social security number) driver license or birth certificate. You will need to bring the address or location where the person impaired can be located by the sheriff’s office.

How Long May a Person Be Held on a Marchman Act?

A person may be detained for involuntary assessment and stabilization for a period not to exceed 5 days.

How Does The Marchman Act Work?

So how does the Marchman Act really work? After the petition is filed, there will be a hearing within ten days. The petitioner receives notice of the hearing by mail and the patient is served notice by the sheriff. From there the court can order for involuntary assessment at a treatment center for up to five days to evaluate and stabilize the patient. A second petition may be filed once the initial written assessment is reviewed by the court to order involuntary treatment for up to 60 days. For the family and patient battling addiction to drugs or alcohol, the Marchman Act can be a lifesaver.

Who is the Marchman Act Designed to Help?

The Marchman Act is designed to help people who are in dire need of addiction treatment. More specifically, the Florida Department of Children states that those who can be Marchman acted have lost the power of self-control with respect to substance use and either:

  • Has inflicted, or threatened or attempted to inflict, or unless admitted is likely to inflict, physical harm on himself or herself or another or:
  • Is in need of substance abuse services and, by reason of substance abuse impairment, his or her judgment has been so impaired that the person is incapable of appreciating his or her need for such services and of making a rational decision in regard thereto

The Marchman Act cannot be used for people who are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol who are simply refusing to get help. In order to utilize this particular act, individuals must meet the above-listed criteria. 

The Process of the Marchman Act

In order to invoke the Marchman Act, there are steps that need to be taken prior to achieving the end result. The process of invoking the Marchman Act can only occur when the following steps are taken:

  • A petition must be filed for involuntary treatment in the court of the county where the person resides 
  • That petition must be filed in good faith by someone that the court recognizes as able to do so (only a spouse, blood relative, or any three individuals who are aware of the person’s substance abuse are recognized by the courts as being able to file for the Marchman Act)
  • The person/people who file the petition must have first-hand information that the individual is no longer in control of themselves and is likely going to harm themselves or others 
  • The person/people who file the petition must also supply evidence that the individual they are discussing is unable to make sound decisions for themselves

The court will review all of the required documents and evidence that the petitioner files and then make a decision on whether the Marchman Act is appropriate to invoke at this time. If the court decides to go forth with invoking the act, then the individual in question will be held for up to five days in order for an assessment to be conducted and for stabilization purposes. Once the temporary involuntary hold is up, the courts can then review further information to decide if they are going to order treatment or allow the individual to return home. If they choose to point the individual in the direction of treatment, they cannot make them participate in a program for longer than 60 days.

What Happens If Someone Leaves Treatment Before the Marchman Act is Over?

It is a common misconception that once a person goes to treatment, they cannot leave until they are done. In reality, however, it is quite the opposite. Anyone, regardless of why they are in treatment and who got them to go, can leave treatment at any given moment. Treatment centers cannot legally hold people against their will, nor do they want to. In most cases, the greatest consequence with leaving treatment is the potential for relapse and continuation of active addiction. But, if someone is in treatment because the Marchman Act was invoked on them, they can face more serious repercussions.

As just mentioned, no one can be forced to stay in a treatment center against their will — not even those who have been Marchman acted. But, if someone who has been Marchman acted leaves treatment, they can be found in contempt of court and charged as a result Depending on the county, individuals can face jail time if they violate their Marchman Act orders. 

Genesis House and the Marchman Act

At Genesis House, we are well-versed on the Marchman Act. We have worked with several individuals who have come through our doors because they have been Marchman acted. We understand how difficult this time can be for anyone, but when someone is coming to us against their initial will, we know that the feeling of being overwhelmed and scared can take over. We are here to let you and your loved ones know that no matter why you cross our threshold, we are ready to help, support, and guide you along a road of recovery. 

So, do not wait any longer. If you are in need of a facility who can handle this and other delicate situations, look no further. Call us right now to speak to one of our specialists today.

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