What is the Marchman Act?

Watching your loved one struggle with addiction is never easy. Though we may want to help, many of us don’t know how, or may end up engaging in enabling behaviors thinking we’re helping. We know how frustrating it can be to feel helpless in the face of addiction, whether you are on the inside of the battle or standing on the sidelines —please, don’t lose hope. While addiction recovery is a deeply personal journey that requires commitment to complete lifestyle change, having the encouragement and support of loved ones makes the path just a bit easier.

But what do you do when your loved one is unable to see the problem or is resistant to change? What should you do when getting through to them could be the difference between life and death? What options are there for avoiding tragedy?

If you live in Florida, knowing about chapter 397 of the Florida Statutes could save your loved one’s life. Known as the Marchman Act, this legislation was put into effect in 1993 as a means of achieving court-mandated, involuntary rehabilitation. This means a judge may be able to place a legal order to admit your loved one into a substance abuse and/or mental health treatment program.

How the Marchman Act Works

The Marchman Act allows for life-saving, emergency medical intervention in situations in which the person receiving may not be capable of giving consent. Specific to people living with substance abuse and mental health disorders, this legal measure grants health care surrogacy rights to family members in instances in which their loved one is deemed incapable of acting in their own interest.

Advocating for addiction recovery treatment on behalf of a loved one is a significant responsibility to take on. In order to implement the Marchman Act, a judge must agree that your loved one poses a significant threat to themselves or others and is unable to act in their own interest. Under the Marchman Act, there are five involuntary treatment admission features, three of which do not require legal intervention and two that may be court ordered.

Non-court procedures:

  • Protective custody
  • Emergency admission
  • Alternative involuntary assessment for minors

Court-ordered procedures:

  • Involuntary assessment and stabilization
  • Involuntary treatment

If your loved one is admitted into treatment under the Marchman Act, their course of care must be adhered to and completed. Otherwise, your loved one will face legal consequences up to and including incarceration. This discourages early discharges (leaving against medical advice [AMA]) and enforces commitment to the recovery process.

Ideally, your loved one should make the conscious decision to seek addiction recovery for themselves and their future. While the Marchman Act can push your loved one to begin their journey, the decision to truly change their lives must come from within.

Would your loved one benefit from the Marchman act?


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