In an opioid epidemic that kills more than 100 Americans daily, many families of overdose victims feel helpless when it comes to convincing their loved ones to seek treatment.
Police and other first responders — who often rescue the same people again and again — are frustrated about their lack of authority to detain users long enough for their heads to clear so they can consider treatment. In Tampa, Fl., police, health care professionals and families have a powerful legal tool not available in many other places: the 1993 Marchman Act. Families and health care professionals can use the state law to “marchman,” or commit people involuntarily into substance abuse treatment when they are deemed a danger to themselves or others, Stateline reports.
Tampa’s Hillsborough County accounts for less than seven percent of the state’s population and more than 40 percent of its Marchman commitments. Police use the Marchman Act to pick up people without a court order and take them to a designated stabilization and assessment center. Addiction professionals use the law when a patient fails to show up for treatment. Parents and friends use it when they fear a loved one’s life is at risk.
Across the US, state lawmakers are grappling with how to give first responders and medical professionals the same kind of legal leeway without violating drug users’ civil liberties.
“It’s been one of the most hotly debated opioid issues of the past year,” said Sherry Green of the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws. More than 400 people in the Tampa area were involuntarily committed into addiction assessment and treatment last year. More than two-thirds completed court-ordered programs. At least 33 states have laws that allow loved ones and others to involuntarily commit people who put their lives at risk by using drugs, says the Alliance.