Florida’s Marchman Act Works

By Joe Considine, Marchman Act Attorney

April, 24, 2023 – Passage of California’s CARE Court law to reform California’s Mental Health Services Act, efforts in the State of Washington, and possibly in New York City, promise help for the tragic number of unhoused among us. California’s law may be a decent start in funding, hiring therapists and providing beds in facilities for the many tens of thousands who need it. What I would like to see more of, though, is recognition of the tens of millions of people afflicted with substance use disorders as a significant part of the same mental health conversation.

Some say that involuntary commitment laws deprive one of agency and that civil liberties are at risk here. However, these laws and the well-established Marchman Act in Florida, provide due process safeguards. And, as Gavin Newsom recently questioned: does an individual who is defecating in the streets have much agency? The same can be said for most chronic substance abusers.

Here is just one example of how the Marchman Act works. A year ago, we were hired by the North Carolina parents of a young man with substance induced psychosis. Their son had absconded from treatment, returned to abusing substances on the street, and was at the Palm Beach International

Airport, preparing to flee the state of Florida to avoid treatment. We got a same day pick-up order from the court for involuntary assessment just moments before the courthouse closed. I rushed to the airport, with the order in-hand, and tracked down deputy sheriffs to help me locate him. They were reluctant. But I pushed, and said, “Let’s do it together.” We found the impaired individual at the terminal getting ready to board a flight on Southwest Airlines. The deputies took the young man into custody and brought him to a facility to be detoxed and then to treatment. His parents recently told me that he has been clean and sober now for almost a year, and he is grateful that his parents pursued a Marchman Act intervention. Not every case requires a sprint through an airport, but this is certainly a repeating story for us. My practice is now exclusively devoted to helping people affected by substance use disorders with involuntary commitment to treatment.