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The Marchman Act

The Marchman Act was created in Florida to assist citizens of Florida get emergency substance abuse services on a voluntary or involuntary basis.

What is a Marchman Act?

A Marchman Act is a means of providing an individual in need of substance abuse services with emergency services and temporary detention for substance abuse evaluation and treatment when required either on an involuntary or voluntary basis.

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.

Who can file a Marchman Act Petition?

In addition to a law enforcement officer’s authority to implement protective custody, a private practitioner, the persons spouse or relative of the person, the director of a licensed service provider or the directors designee, 3 responsible adults who have personal knowledge of the persons substance abuse problem or, in the case of a minor, the minor’s parents, legal guardian, legal custodian, or a licensed service provider can file an involuntary

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.

What will happen after I file a Marchman Act?

After you complete the Marchman Act Petition, the court will review the petition and if the person is represented by an attorney, conduct a hearing within 10 days or without the appointment of an attorney and relying solely on the contents of the petition enter an order authorizing the involuntary stabilization and assessment of the person.

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.

Who can I call for more information?

For more information please call the clerk of Court in the county where the individual resides as procedures may vary form county to county within the State of Florida. It can be difficult for one who has a drinking problem to actually see it and acknowledge it for themselves. Alcoholism is a tricky disease and manifests itself in many ways. The American Medical Society (AMA) defines alcoholism as a chronic, progressive condition with mental cravings, and physical withdrawal symptoms noted when the intake of alcohol is ceased.

There seems to be three stages of alcoholism that the alcoholic travels through in their drinking careers, early, middle and late stages. Many alcoholics die in the late stages of alcoholism by malnutrition liver disease, blood pressure disorders, or complications due from acute withdrawal symptoms. Many die from simple accidents such as driving (DUI) falling down drunk and suffering a head injury or a host of other tragic events. Some of the symptoms of alcoholism are denial of the problem itself. Mental cravings and compulsions to drink are common. Physical withdrawal symptoms occur when the alcoholic stops drinking. Many Alcoholics require a medical detox when this occurs. Many alcoholics can function in society for a time if they are in the early stages of the illness.

Many hold jobs, go to work, raise a family like anyone else. This profile usually starts to wane as the disease moves forward and gets worse. Eventually the alcoholic will begin to exhibit a pattern of missed work, coming home drunk, not taking care of responsibilities or suffering negative consequences from their drinking. Many alcoholics get into trouble with the law. Being intoxicated in public, driving under the influence are common legal problems for the alcoholic type. Many kill or injure other innocent people by their drinking behavior. Many kill themselves by accident by being intoxicated or in a blackout. The alcoholic can become so immersed in their addiction to alcohol they may need medical help.

Many alcoholics refuse help when confronted about their drinking problems. They may be behind on their mortgage, late with bills, neglecting family and work but still will not seek help. Denial of the illness is so powerful within the alcoholic that they will refuse any offer of help. Many times the only recourse for the loved ones is an Intervention. An Intervention is a planned coordinated gentle confrontation by loved ones or friends of the person suffering from alcoholism. The goal of the Intervention is to get the alcoholic into a treatment or medical center for stabilization. Usually, the Intervention is lead by a trained Interventionist or counselor who is familiar with the process. Family members are instructed to exert tough love during this intervention meeting. The alcoholic is not afforded a way out or around the only course available now…treatment. The interventionist is familiar with the techniques of, manipulation and false promises usually utilized by the alcoholic. Buying time, putting off to a later date or refusing to go get help is a common tactic for the alcoholic. The intervention team must combat all these obstacles during this meeting with clear directions of treatment only. In some states if the intervention fails, a legal remedy is available to the loved ones of the alcoholic. In Florida, families may petition the Mental Health court for a Marchman Act. The Marchman Act was created for this very difficult purpose.

Get the alcoholic who is in denial or refusing medical help treatment. Once a Marchman Act has been initiated and served, the matter is now in the hands of the mental health court. The alcoholic person is sent a notice to appear in court. This hearing is a civil not criminal. The commissioner usually orders an alcohol assessment and history to be completed on the alcoholic by a licensed addiction or alcohol counselor or agency. Once the assessment has been completed, the judge makes a determination based on the findings of the counselor. More often than not, the alcoholic is ordered into a local alcohol treatment center for help. The court monitors the person’s treatment throughout this process. If the alcoholic elopes, or refuses to go initially to treatment, then the court has the power to place them in violation. A violation of a Marchman Act order could result in a jail sentence. The threat of jail seems to be the final push that the alcoholic needs to finally go into rehab.

It would seem that once you finally get the sick alcoholic into treatment the question of how are they going to get well if they don’t want help comes up. That is a good question. Many alcoholics enter treatment agencies against their will. They do recover and get well. The key is to break the cycle of drinking and stabilize the alcoholic. The counselors can go about the other clinical tasks of breaking through denial systems, and developing relapse prevention strategies. The Marchman Act is a fantastic tool in the fight against the disease. Many states do not have any remedy for placing an alcoholic into treatment involuntarily. Loved ones have to pray and hope that the alcoholic will stop on their own or see the light. Many loved ones have to hope that the alcoholic will get arrested and come before a judge who will then order them into treatment. Many times this does not happen and the alcoholic just continues own into a whirlwind of drinking and despair.

The Marchman Act has helped thousands of people within the State of Florida deal with difficult situations relating to alcohol abuse and alcoholism. For more information about the Marchman Act go to

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Season 3, Episode 31: 29 Years of Recovery w/ Andy V.