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Florida’s Marchman Act: A Provision of Involuntary Addiction Treatment

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What Is the Marchman Act?

The Marchman Act, named after Hal S. Marchman, a well-known pastor from Volusia County, Florida, was introduced by Florida lawmakers in 1993. The act addressed the issues of people struggling with substance abuse, primarily aiming to direct them to appropriate treatment. The Marchman Act encouraged people suffering from addiction to voluntarily seek help from professionals. What, however, separated it from similar acts was the introduction of involuntary addiction treatment. The act guaranteed that, under particular circumstances, people suffering from addiction could be referred to a treatment center where they would be undergoing the standard procedure of evaluation, followed by the phases of stabilization and therapy.1 2  

How Is the Involuntary Treatment Initiated Under the Marchman Act?

The Marchman Act specifies the conditions under which treatment of a person suffering from substance abuse could be initiated without that person’s explicit consent. One of the conditions that must be met is the actual presence of injury or the existence of a real risk of harming other people or themselves, both of which are only some of the numerous negative effects of addiction. Family members and loved ones of the person suffering from addiction (three people total are enough) can request the initiation of substance abuse treatment if they estimate that the addiction sufferer could put themself or other people in danger.1 2 3

The addiction sufferer could also be sent to the treatment center on the ground of not being able to understand the benefits they could gain from substance treatment. Relatives, friends, and other people who know the person suffering from substance abuse could be the ones initiating the sufferer’s treatment on this ground.1 2

It is up to a judge to decide whether the addiction sufferer should be sent to a treatment facility. Even if it might seem obvious that the sufferer satisfies some of the criteria for the involuntary treatment, they may not get it if the judge, for whatever reason, deems it unecessary.1 2

What Does the Petition Filing Process Under the Marchman Act Look Like?

Before filing an involuntary treatment petition under the Marchman Act, the person thinking about filing a petition is best advised to try to get the sufferer voluntarily sign up for a treatment. A way to do so could include a visit to a treatment center, where the professionals could attempt to persuade the sufferer to start an adequate rehab treatment.4

If, however, all of such attempts fail, a petition for involuntary treatment should be filed. After getting informed about bed availability at treatment facilities, petitioners should go to the county clerk’s office, where they would receive forms that need to be completed. These forms would require information about the person who is to be sent to the treatment, that person’s whereabouts, their concomitant medical conditions (which, if present, could also be treated at a rehab center), as well as the name of the treatment facility where the sufferer would be sent and dates of sufferer’s stay at the given facility.2

The court hearing on the petition is set to take place within 10 days after the petition is filed. If the judge approves the petition, the court would try to convince the sufferer to voluntarily attend the treatment. If the sufferer still refuses to go to the treatment, they will be transferred to the rehab facility by force.2

Who Can Initiate A Marchman Act Involuntary Treatment Petition?

Addiction sufferers’ family members and relatives are the ones who could file the involuntary treatment petition. Besides them, the petition could be filed by the sufferer’s guardian, partner, friend, doctor, or indeed any person who is informed about the sufferer’s situation. If the petition is being filed solely by the sufferer’s friends or acquaintances, there should be at least three people signing the petition. If, however, the person suffering from substance abuse is a minor, the petition could also be filed by their legal custodian or a service provider with an adequate license.2

How Long Will A Marchman Act Involuntary Treatment Last?

The duration of the involuntary treatment initiated under the Marchman Act is typically equal to the duration of other rehab treatments. After going through the intake, people sent for involuntary addiction treatment might stay in the hospital for a maximum of 5 days if they are to only undergo phases of medical evaluation and stabilization. During this short-term program, the addiction sufferer would be supervised by a panel of experts, ranging from nurse practitioners to psychiatrists. Such treatment aims to lead to the patient’s detoxification, paying particular attention to dangerous withdrawal symptoms. To achieve this, addiction sufferers are usually provided with a 24-hour care and offered aftercare guidelines following the inpatient part of the treatment.2

The Marchman Act also makes it possible for addiction sufferers to receive a longer treatment, usually lasting for up to 60 days. During such treatment programs, patients follow a daily schedule mostly involving different therapy and counseling sessions, commonly supplemented with medication, all with the aim to ease the withdrawal symptoms and prevent the post-treatment risk of relapse. Treatment program attendees who disobey court decisions might be ordered to get back to treatment.5

What Is the Cost of A Treatment Under the Marchman Act?

Addiction sufferers or their loved ones usually have to pay for the involuntary treatment initiated under the Marchman Act. The exact price of the treatment depends on the arrangement made with the insurance providers. People with higher paying abilities may opt for some of the high-profile luxurious treatment centers. There are also options of low-cost or possibly free state-funded rehab treatment arrangements. To check whether their insurance provider covers treatment at certain rehab centers or to get informed about possible insurance arrangements, prospective rehab program attendees are advised to take a look at our website search tool or call one of our helplines aimed at helping people suffering from toxic substance abuse (there are even helplines specialized for particular addictions, such as heroin abuse).6 7 8

Are There Any Equivalent Legal Forms in the Other States?

The Marchman Act is not unique in its provision of involuntary treatment in cases of toxic substance abuse. According to Law Atlas, 37 U.S. states institute some form of involuntary treatment for people suffering from addiction. Some of the states allowing involuntary addiction treatment include California, Georgia, Massachusetts, South Carolina, and Texas.9

As is the case in the Marchman Act, laws from each of these countries describe a procedure under which an addiction sufferer would be assessed and eventually be ordered to undergo a stabilization procedure. All of these laws describe the court’s vital role in this process, aided by the significant involvement of medical professionals. The law enacted in South Carolina, however, is particularly similar to Florida’s Marchman Act as it specifies similar petition process guidelines.9

The differences Between the Marchman Act and the Baker Act

Baker Act is another Florida state law that permits involuntary treatment if certain conditions are fulfilled. There are, however, differences between the two acts. Most importantly, the Baker Act covers severe mental health issues but not substance use disorders which are the main topic of the Marchman Act.10

Other differences are more subtle. For example, the Baker Act allows for custody of up to 3 days, whereas the Marchman Act provides for the custody of 5 days. Furthermore, the Baker Act requires that people suffering from mental health issues are in danger of harming themselves in order to be referred for involuntary treatment. According to the Marchman Act, however, addiction sufferers could also be detained if they possess a risk of harming other people.11

Finally, the Baker Act is less strict on evidence requirements. In order to be sent to involuntary treatment, a person with a mental health disorder only needs to have their loved one co-sign a letter urging mental health treatment. The Marchman Act, on the other hand, has to provide a piece of direct evidence pointing to addiction sufferers’ addiction problems.3

What Is the Baker Act At All?

The Baker Act, otherwise known as the Florida Mental Health Act, was introduced in the state of Florida in 1972 by Maxine Baker, a Democratic Representative from Miami-Dade County. The main purpose of the act was to provide involuntary treatment for people suffering from severe mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. The goal of this provision was to make treatments available for people who have mental health problems but are unable to recognize them themselves.12

In order to get their loved ones evaluated for involuntary mental health treatment, people need to fill out a Baker Act form or call the official phone numbers to arrange further steps. Experts from the certified mental health center would then assess whether the patient would need any further treatment. Under the Baker Act, involuntary mental health treatment for someone could be requested by their parents, legal guardians, relatives, spouse, as well as personal doctors and licensed service providers.11

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The editorial staff of Projectknow.com is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands of pages for accuracy and relevance. Our reviewers consistently monitor the latest research from SAMHSA, NIDA, and other reputable sources to provide our readers the most accurate content on the web.
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