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The Marchman Act

Drug and alcohol abuse is a prevalent problem in the United States. As drugs and alcohol become more readily available, mental health issues become more common, and treatment is too expensive or otherwise out-of-reach for so many, drug and alcohol abuse increase.

According to the latest statistics from the American Hospital Association, drug overdose deaths in the U.S. rose 4.6% from 2018 to 2019. There were a total of 70,980 overdose deaths in 2019, the majority of which were from opioids.

An estimated 95,000 Americans die from alcohol-related deaths every year, which makes alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the U.S., according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

In Florida, counties like Palm Beach County, Brevard County, Monroe County, and Pasco County se the highest number of overdose deaths. When it comes to alcohol, over 1,000 Floridians are killed each year on roadways in alcohol-related crashes, according to Students Against Destructive Decisions (SAAD).

As the family member or friend of someone who is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, you are worried. You want your loved one to get the help they need before they end up harming themself or anyone else. Now, you’re faced with a dilemma, because your loved one has threatened to hurt themself or another person. However, they don’t see that they need help. In this tricky situation, what can you do? How can you keep your loved one and others around them safe?

That’s where the Marchman Act can come into play. With this Act, those dealing with drug and alcohol issues can get the treatment they need. Essentially, you can help save your loved one’s life and get them back on track. They can have a brighter future ahead.

With the right Marchman Act lawyer on your side, you can legally assist your loved one and ensure they go into treatment as soon as possible.

Before calling up a lawyer, learn more about this Act and why it’s critical to your loved one’s recovery.

What Is the Marchman Act?

The Hal S. Marchman Alcohol and Other Drug Services Act of 1993, also known as the Marchman Act, is a statute in Florida that provides intervention to individuals who are abusing drugs and alcohol. It is enacted when a chronic user will not or cannot seek treatment and they are a danger to themself or others.

How to Start an Evaluation and Possible Involuntary Commitment

There are a number of steps you’ll have to take to enact the Marchman Act.

First, if you are the spouse, guardian, or relative of the individual who is abusing drugs or alcohol then you can file a petition for free. Three concerned unrelated people who have witnessed your loved one abusing drugs and/or alcohol may also file the free petition. A therapist, law enforcement officer, or doctor can file an emergency petition too. Before you file, it’s best to bring in a Marchman Act
lawyer who can help you file the petition and make sure you properly fill out all the forms.

Then, you (and your attorney, if you hired one) must file the paperwork with the court clerk in the county where your loved one is currently residing. You must swear that the petition is truthful. The petition will be notarized and the judge or magistrate will review it.

The judge or magistrate will decide if this is an emergency and immediate action must be taken. If it is, then the judge can send law enforcement to retrieve your loved one and take them to a facility for an evaluation. If the judge deems this is not an emergency, then they can decide that your loved one can be served with a summons that says they must go to a hearing that will take place within 10
days. If the hearing is set, then your loved one and you, the petitioner, must appear. They can have a lawyer appear with them. If they do not have a lawyer, they will be assigned a court-ordered attorney.

At the hearing, testimony will be presented. From this, the judge will determine if your loved one needs to go through a court-ordered evaluation. You, the petitioner, will have to prove that your loved one is abusing drugs or alcohol and is a danger to themself or others. The judge could deny your request for a few reasons. The criteria for evaluation or involuntary treatment may not be met,
treatment services might not be available at the time, you or your loved one may not be able to pay for treatment, or your loved one’s behaviors may be too dangerous for a provider to handle.

If the judge decides that your loved one does need an evaluation, you will need to pay a service fee to the Sheriff’s department. Your loved one will be sent a facility that will perform the evaluation. Facilities have up to five days to complete the evaluation, but they can always request an extension from the court if required.

Following the evaluation, the facility can change the status to voluntary, discharge your loved one, or file a request with the court for admission to involuntary treatment. The judge has the right to order treatment for up to 60 days. However, some counties in Florida say that the initial treatment can last for up to 90 days. Plus, it can be renewed every 90 days.

Can You Leave Treatment at Any Time?

Technically, your loved one could leave a treatment facility before they are formally discharged even if they are there involuntarily. However, they would be in contempt of a court order and they could be sent to jail. It’s best for them to stay in treatment until the court order is up so they don’t get into any trouble. The arrest and/or possible conviction could end up going on their criminal record.

Paying for Treatment

Let’s say you’ve filed a petition and you want to ensure that the judge will not deny your request. Along with providing sufficient evidence that your loved one abuses drugs or alcohol and could hurt themself or others, you should show that you or your loved one could cover the cost of treatment. You could save up money for treatment or submit the evaluation and court-ordered treatment bills to
your loved one’s insurance provider. There are some facilities that will work out a sliding scale fee with your based on your income.

Why Utilize the Marchman Act?

The Marchman Act is a lifesaver for many individuals who are facing substance abuse issues. It can stop them from harming themself or others and get them on the road to recovery. Sometimes, individuals will not want to go into a treatment facility or face up to the fact that they have a real problem. This will be a much-needed wakeup call for them. With your help, they can get the treatment they desperately need and turn their life around.

Ensuring a Successful Petition

To ensure that your petition will be successful, you need to collect the right evidence, which includes showing how your loved one is abusing drugs or alcohol, is a threat, and is incapable of getting treatment on their own. You’ll also have to fill out the forms correctly, file the petition in the right court, and show up to the hearing.

A Marchman Act attorney will be able to help you with every step of the process and give you a much better chance of having your petition granted. At this time, you are stressed and scared about what could happen to your loved one. What if they’ve been getting into bar fights or threatening suicide? What if they’ve been taking hard drugs that are known to kill? Right now, you need an emergency order for a dire situation, and an attorney will help you take the proper action straight away.

You need support from those around you, so make sure other family members are there for you and your loved one, if possible. Of course, the support of an experienced attorney will make all the difference in the world too.

Will the Marchman Act Petition Be Confidential?

You may be worried that you’re messing up your loved one’s future by filing a Marchman Act petition. But the truth of the matter is that the petition is completely confidential. This means that their current or future employer, landlord, or any other person cannot go to the Clerk of Courts website and look up the petition. Additionally, your loved one’s treatment records must be kept confidential due to HIPAA laws. This will in no way hurt your loved one and only they can choose to disclose that they are in a treatment program.

Can You Find Out About Your Loved One’s Treatment?

On the same note, HIPAA laws also apply to you. Your loved one’s treatment providers are not obligated to share any information with you. You will have to ask your loved one that confidential information if you want to find it out. However, you could always speak to your loved one and try to have a say in the treatment facility they will go to.

The Marchman Act vs. the Baker Act

The Marchman Act and the Baker Act are similar, but they are not the same. The Marchman Act focuses on helping someone with a substance abuse issue who could harm themself or others. The Baker Act, which is also called the Florida Mental Health Act, focuses on helping someone with a mental health issue who could harm themself or others.

With the Baker Act, an individual can be held for up to 72 hours – or longer if the end of the 72-hour period falls on a weekend or holiday – plus up to six months if a petition is made to the court.

Keep in mind that mental health issues and substance abuse issues are typically intertwined. Usually, you will ask the court in a Marchman Act case to address your loved one’s substance issue and mental health issues since they usually go hand in hand.

Other Options for Assisting Your Loved One

If you don’t believe you’re at the point of filing a Marchman Act petition, that’s OK. You have other options before you take this step.

You may want to:

  • Stage an intervention with your loved one’s family and friends surrounding them
  • Reach out and show them that you are concerned
  • Offer to discuss treatment options with them
  • Ask them if they need help getting into a 12-step treatment program
  • Assist them with finding a therapist and/or substance abuse counselor

Remember that it’s always best to consult with a mental health professional and/or a substance abuse counselor about any of these options so that you will get the best outcome possible. You don’t want your loved one to feel ambushed or that you’re trying to control their life. Right now, they are likely going through mental health issues along with their substance abuse issues, and they may not respond well to your help, even if you have the best intentions. At the end of the day, if things become too rough, the Marchman Act exists and you can absolutely file a petition.

Finding a Marchman Act Attorney to Help

At this moment, you need to focus on helping your loved one. But since you’ve never dealt with this issue before, you may not know where to start. With the help of experienced Marchman Act attorneys, your loved one could be that much closer to recovery.
If you need help now, you can call on Marchman Act attorneys, who proudly serve individuals and families throughout Florida. Mark G. Astor and his team have been helping clients for over two decades and they understand the severity of the situation. They’ve seen it many times before and they’re here for you in your time of need. Contact our Marchman Act attorneys now for guidance through this tough situation. We are available 24/7, and you can call us at 855-429-0074 to schedule a consultation.

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