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What are the five (5) options when dealing with a loved one who has a substance use and/or mental health disorder?

Hello, everyone! It’s Mark, and welcome to another edition of our video newsletter. In this video, I want to talk to you about the five options or five choices you have when dealing with a loved one who has substance use and or mental illness.

Choice number one is voluntary treatment. Suppose your loved one is willing to go to treatment, to acknowledge they need help, to stay long enough in treatment so they can experience the miracle of recovery. In that case, you and I probably don’t need to have a conversation. If they’re going to go to treatment, they’re going to follow the aftercare program, and if they’re going to learn the necessary skills, so they don’t relapse, then great.

Number two is involuntary treatment. What happens if your loved one is not willing to go to treatment? What happens if they’ve been to treatment and never stay long enough so they can experience the miracle of recovery? Perhaps they’ve been to multiple treatment centers, maybe you’ve taken multiple trips to the emergency room with them after they’ve overdosed. In that case, they’re not able to make that decision for themselves to go to treatment at least long enough so they can recover. We use a couple of tools, such as the Marchman Act, the Guardianship, and sometimes both. That will enable you to make the decision for them that they clearly can’t make. This is you helping them get into treatment and keeping them there long enough, so they recover.

Number three is when the state makes the decision for you. What do I mean by that? What I’m talking about is Florida’s Baker Act. We get a lot of calls from people who call me up and say, “Mark, I want you to baker act my loved one because they need help.”, and my response to them is that unless it’s an emergency, in which case you should definitely call 911, don’t use the Baker Act. Why? Because the Baker Act is not a treatment statute. The Baker Act is a statute that is designed only for emergency stabilization.

If you go ahead and you have law enforcement Baker Act your loved one, or if you go to the courthouse and get them baked-acted, or if they end up in the emergency room and the doctor baker acts them. What basically happened is that the state of Florida has taken care, custody, and control of your loved one. This means you’re not going to be making any decisions then, potentially for a significant period of time. They won’t be making any decisions for themselves either, so don’t confuse the Baker Act with the Marchman Act, or even Guardianship. The Baker Act is not a treatment statute.

Here’s the thing, if your loved one is having issues, especially with mental illness, becomes a risk to themselves or somebody else, if they threaten to commit suicide, then there’s going to be a certain point in time where the state tells the family that they were given ample opportunity to fix and deal with their loved one’s situation, but they didn’t. When this happens, the state will do it for you, and when they decide that they are done, they will let you know. But meanwhile, they are in control. This is a dilemma you don’t want to be faced with.

If your loved one gets Baker acted and they’re being held illegally or unlawfully, that’s a conversation I want to have with you. But please, don’t use the Baker Act unless it’s an emergency, in which case you should call 911, because it’s not for treatment. It can happen if you don’t take care of the problem soon enough.

Number four is prison. That’s right. People with substance use and mental illness tend to make really silly decisions. It’s because of the drugs. It’s because alcohol, mental illness are running the show here, and your loved ones are not in control of the situation. Their illness is.

As a result, they tend to make decisions that you and I consider objectively unreasonable. In other words, we wouldn’t make those decisions. What we don’t really understand is their reason why. Why are they driving drunk? Why are they buying drugs on the street? Why are they stealing things? Sometimes, the person ends up in prison, and that’s a dilemma that you don’t want to be faced with. At some point, they’ll do something so heinous that you won’t be able to get them out, or they’ll commit so many crimes that the state decides they’re done with them and lock them up as long as they can.

Here in Florida, the legislative mandate is to punish first and rehabilitate second. The state likes to punish people, and as far as drugs are concerned, I can tell you that your loved one will have much more access to drugs in prison than they likely would have done on the street. So you don’t want them going to prison.

The fifth choice, and the one that you want the least, is the morgue. That’s right, dead. Drugs kill people, and I don’t say that tongue-in-cheek.

When I was in my teens, I had friends who smoked marijuana, and It’s not the kind of marijuana today. Today’s drugs are laced with fentanyl, a drug that’s coming out of China and is significantly more potent than the drug itself. It’s cheap, and it causes a really big high. It also kills a lot of people. It will kill your loved ones if they use fentanyl-laced drugs, so obviously, we don’t want them to do that. So again, you have five choices.

I’m happy to discuss all of them with you but what I would tell you is, if your loved one is not willing to go to treatment, then let’s talk about how to get them there so they don’t end up in prison as a ward of the state, and worse, dead.

With that said, take care, call us if you need to chat, and be well.

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