We’ve all heard it before—that addicts won’t clean up until they want to clean up. But a new law in Ohio has taken a different position, allowing families to force addicts into treatment. According to the Plain Dealer, there are several problems with the law including just who has access to it and whether or not it violates the rights of those it forces to get help.
Often, the first contact an addict has with the courts is when they are arrested for a possession charge. Sometimes this is enough to steer them to want to get help. Other times they will go before the judge again and again before they are committed to treatment. The new law, however, sends them to a judge simply upon the request of their family.
If a family believes a drug addict needs help and isn’t willing to do it without some serious cajoling, they can file with the court to have their family member forcefully admitted to treatment.
One problem with the law is that it requires the family to be responsible for cost and makes them put up a deposit for half the total cost of treatment.
So far, the law’s only been used once since it was added in March. The woman’s family had to give $8,000 to the court as their deposit. Obviously, not everyone is able to do this. According to Cuyahoga County Probate Court Magistrate David Mills, they’ve gotten several inquiries from families interested in the program, but the conversation quickly ends when they find out just how much it costs.
In other states, families aren’t required to put up a deposit and can even use health insurance or find free treatment options.
Another problem with the law is the constitutionality of it. How can you force someone into treatment when they don’t want to go? The only other times you can deprive someone of their rights like this is in criminal cases or when they are a mental health risk for themselves or society. The Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities decided not to support the law for this reason.
Because the law has only been used once, and the addict involved was amenable to treatment, even choosing to receive more after the initial treatment was completed, it’s unlikely that we’ll see very many addicts being forced into treatment in this manner.
Instead, most will likely enter the criminal justice system and find a route to treatment there.
Drug courts are a obvious choice when an addict finds themselves in trouble with the law and with a desire for treatment. These courts are similar to an intensive probation including treatment and frequent meetings with the judge.
If you’ve been charged with a drug possession offense and are interested in your treatment options, we may be able to help.