The Florida Marchman Act:

By Myles B. Schlam, J.D., CCJAP

How to go about obtaining court-ordered treatment for addiciton or alcoholism. In Florida we have the Marchman Act:
There are many people out there who are affected by the disease of Addiction, but they do not even know it. “Denial” is a common factor when dealing with addicts. Unfortunately, the family often times will suffer the whirlwind created by the active addict. Families often times do not know which way to turn, especially when the Addict refuses to admit to treatment voluntarily. There is a solution, but the family (or friends) must be perserverant.
In Order to have a person court-ordered to Treatment under the Marchman Act, a Petition must be filed with the Court. It is strongly suggested that the family or friends petitioning the Court consult with an Addiction Professional prior to initiating the action.
The first step is a Petition for Involuntary Assessment and Stabilization under Fla. Statute 397. It must be determined by a Qualified Addicions Professional, that the Respondent (person we are trying to get treatment) has clearly lost control over their drug or alcohol use and cannot appreciate the gravity of their addiction. It must also be evidenced that 1) The Respondent has lost the power of self control with respect to substance abuse, 2) has inflicted or is likely to inflict physical harm on him/herself or others unless admitted, 3) His/Her judgement is so impaired that he/she is incapable of appreciating his/her need for care and of making a rational decision regarding the need for care, and 4) has refused to submit to a voluntary assessment.
If the Addiction Professional believes that the above criteria have been met, then the next step would be a Petition for Involuntary Treatment, also under Fla statute 397. The standard period of time ordered for treatment is 60 days. However, the judge will usually defer to the Addiction Professional who assessed the Respondent and the assessment does not always recommend residential treatment. Sometimes Intensive Outpatient or just outpatient counseling is recommended. If treatment is ordered at a county facility, there is sometimes a waiting period of a few days up to 10 days for the assessment. At ASI, our staff are Qualified Addicitons Professionals, who can perform the assessments as well as facilitate the Marchman Act hearings. If there was an emergency/crisis admission within the 3 days prior to the petition, the requirement for Assessment can be waived.
A Petitioner in a Marchman Act Proceeding in Florida must be either a blood-relative or three “responsible adults” with first-hand knowledge of the Respondent’s condition. If the Petitioner has private insurance or has the financial means to The Florida Marchman Act: pay for treatment, the Court will Order him/her to the facility decided upon by the parties. If the Respondent is indigent or has no means to pay for treatment, he/she will be ordered to a County-funded facility if he/she meets the eligibility requirements of that facilities diagnostic guidelines. However, if the Respondent suffers from certain types of mental disorders such as Schizophrenia, most of the county facilities treating primarily addictions will not admit them.
Once the Respondent has completed the 60-day court- ordered treatment program, a motion can be made to extend the treatment period up to an additional 90-day period. This decision would be influenced by the recommendation of the treatment team at the treating facility as well as other professional opinions.
If the Respondent leaves a facility which he/she has been court-ordered to, the sheriff’s office will be called and Respondent will be picked up and usually brought back to said facility. The Respondent can also be held in Contempt of Court for leaving the facility or for failing to stay abstinent from alcohol/drugs. A “Show Cause” motion should be filed by the petitioner and/or the treating facility. Then a Rule to “Show Cause” will be issued by the Judge and there will be another hearing to determine if the Respondent should be held in contempt of court.
There are many pitfalls and loop-holes in the Marchman Act and it is strongly advised that anyone attempting to go through with this seek the advice of a qualified and experienced professional to assist them in navigating this system. The Respondent will be appointed Legal Counsel to represent his/her interests if they cannot afford one. Also, Marchman hearings differ from county to county. ASI can facilitate and coordinate Marchman hearings statewide. At ASI we are here to take a stand for the Petitioners and facilitate this process for them. We will coordinate all levels of treatment and facilitate the court hearings. We remain present from beginning to end and appear in Court multiple times if necessary.
ASI provides Intervention and Case-Management Services to its Clients. We are the only facility in South Florida licensed by The Department of Children and Families specifically for the clinical components of General Intervention and Case-Management. We are here to serve and look forward to answering any of your questions and addressing the needs of you or your loved ones.
Myles B. Schlam, J.D., CCJAP
Advocare Solutions, Inc – CEO
(954) 804-6888