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Casey’s Law: You Can Seek Legal Intervention for Your Loved One Who Refuses Treatment

Once upon a time, substance abuse was an issue we associated almost exclusively with low-income communities. The past decade and the onslaught of heroin overdoses, however, have proven our previous understanding of substance abuse is simply not reality. The truth is that substance abuse knows no social, economic, or educational boundaries. In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who can say he or she does not know someone whose life has been affected by the vicious cycle of substance abuse.

Because individuals suffering from substance abuse are either unable to recognize or unwilling to accept their once recreational use of drugs or alcohol has progressed to a disease, they often refuse to undergo treatment despite support or encouragement from family and friends to do so. Like many other conditions, if left untreated, substance abuse can cause severe irreversible physical or mental damage to its victim and often results in fatality. Moreover, a regrettable part of the devastation substance abuse leaves is that much of the damage it causes can be prevented if timely treated. Unfortunately, and all too often, families plead with their loved ones to seek substance abuse treatment only to hear them respond, “I’m not ready for treatment,” or, “I don’t have an issue.” Indeed, the phrase “time is of the essence” is no understatement with regards to treatment, as substance abuse is a progressive and life-threatening disease. If your friend or family member suffers from substance abuse and has spoken these words, you do not have to spend each day apprehensive about what could happen while you wait for your loved one to admit he or she has a substance abuse issue and needs help.

In July of 2004, Kentucky passed the Matthew “Casey” Wethington Act for Substance Abuse, more commonly known as Casey’s Law and named after a 23-year-old man who died of a heroin overdose despite his mother’s desperate attempts to seek intervention and treatment for him. Casey’s Law provides that a court may order an individual to substance abuse treatment upon the petition of family or friends and with adequate evidence that the individual suffers from a substance abuse problem, poses a danger to himself/herself or others, and would benefit from substance abuse treatment. It is not necessary that the individual has ever been charged with a crime or previously received a diagnosis of substance abuse. Instead, Casey’s Law provides legal intervention for any individual battling drug or alcohol abuse.

The process begins once a family member or friend files a petition. If, after reviewing the petition, the court determines there is probable cause to order substance abuse treatment, the matter will be set for a court hearing. After evaluation by two healthcare professionals, the court determines whether or not the individual should undergo involuntary treatment, which will vary in time length and degree depending on the individual’s circumstances and needs as determined by the court. While the person who petitioned the court is ultimately responsible to pay for treatment, that person chooses the treatment facility and there are both affordable and free treatment options available in our community. The consequence for failure of the individual to comply with his or her court-ordered treatment is contempt of court, but the court’s ultimate objective is to rehabilitate and help the individual.

Studies show that court-ordered involuntary substance abuse treatment can be equally effective as voluntary treatment. Unfortunately, most individuals suffering from substance abuse will not voluntarily seek treatment because their ability to think rationally and to objectively consider the gravity of their situation is severely impaired by their disease. Regrettably, our firm knows first-hand the devastation and heartache of waiting too late to intervene. If your loved one has a substance abuse issue and refuses treatment, do not wait for the individual to seek help on his or her own terms. In all likelihood, that day will never come and the only thing you will truly be waiting for is a call from the county jail, the hospital, or the coroner. Casey’s Law provides legal intervention with the objective of saving the individual from the dangerous and often fatal consequences of substance abuse. As is the case with any other disease, early treatment provides better odds of recovery. Contact us at (502) 581-1676 for more information on how you can intervene and provide your loved one with life-saving treatment.