What is the Marchman Act?

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When you have a family member struggling with drug or alcohol dependence, you want to do everything you can to help. Still, you may also be concerned you might drive your loved one further away. In most cases, it’s always better for someone needing treatment to willingly pursue it on their own—even if they need some convincing. One of the most unfortunate aspects of addiction is that those caught in its grasp are unable to make sound decisions regarding the assistance they need. When a person is highly intoxicated, they may be entirely incapable of doing anything at all to help themselves.

Fortunately, under the Florida Marchman Act, you may be able to ensure your loved one gets treatment if they are unwilling to do so voluntarily. If you decide to seek help, you must find a treatment center that will set them up for success. Guardian Recovery provides a continuum of personalized, comprehensive care. Reach out to us today for additional information or to take the first step toward helping your loved one recover.

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What Is the Marchman Act?

The Marchman Act (Hal S. Marchman Alcohol and Other Drug Services Act) is a Florida law that, under specific circumstances, enables loved ones to obtain help if an individual is reluctant to seek substance abuse treatment. The Act is an involuntary order for addiction treatment that must be filed in court. Taking this action, however, should be the last resort after other efforts have failed, as those with substance use disorders are encouraged to seek treatment willingly.

The Marchman Act Petitioning Process

Marchman Act criteria specify how it can be used under different circumstances. There are provisions for short-term emergency admission and protective custody, which can be ordered by law enforcement or a licensed health provider. This can occur when an intoxicated person is in a public place, and their behavior attracts the attention of a police officer.

Also, a person’s spouse, guardian, relative, or three non-related adults who know a loved one’s condition firsthand can file a petition to have them involuntarily committed. Still, even those who chronically abuse substances and refuse to seek help may not be ordered to treatment under the law. The court must instead determine that they:

  • Cannot control their substance use.
  • Cannot make rational decisions regarding their substance abuse.
  • Are likely to be a danger to themselves and others.

How Do You File for the Marchman Act?

In an ideal world, you would be able to convince your loved one to enter an addiction recovery facility voluntarily, and filing a petition under the Marchman Act would be unnecessary. However, if they refuse to pursue professional help for their disorder, you can petition the court to enforce the Marchman Act and commit them to substance abuse treatment.

First, you must contact an accredited treatment center, such as Guardian Recovery, to ensure a bed is available. If you file independently, it is your responsibility to ensure the petition is correct and complete. If the paperwork is inaccurate, the process of officially filing can be delayed, and it may take longer to get the person in question into treatment. Conversely, you can hire an attorney to help prepare you for legal proceedings and ensure all paperwork is filed correctly. 

You can also consult an intervention specialist who can help you navigate the filing process. They can also develop, implement and monitor your loved one through the treatment plan and ensure it is customized to facilitate long-lasting recovery.

The Palm Beach County Clerk’s office provides electronic access to the necessary forms you must complete. If the person you are petitioning for is in another country, check with that county clerk’s office for information about accessing forms.

Information You Will Need to Provide on Marchman Act Forms Include:

  • The person’s full description.
  • Details regarding where they can be located.
  • Which facility will be entering.
  • The day and time a bed will be available.
  • The person’s medical conditions and current medication.

When the forms are completed, the county clerk will ask you to swear to the truthfulness of your statements. Your petition will then be notarized and sent to a magistrate or judge. They can deny the petition, hold a court hearing within ten days, or send police to pick up the respondent for assessment and stabilization. Law enforcement will try to convince them to go to the treatment facility willingly, and they will be taken into custody whether or not they consent. 

What Happens After My Loved One Enters Treatment?

After 3-5 days, a person’s status must become voluntary, or they must be discharged unless a petition for involuntary treatment is filed. (4) Upon assessment indicating the need for professional help, the judge can order up to two months of treatment.

If your loved one does not comply with a court order they could be in contempt of court and punished with jail time. This is where consequences are introduced for a person refusing to comply with the treatment orders. In many cases, these orders are not enforced with incarceration.

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What Are the Costs of Filing & Treatment Services?

There is no charge for filing the petition with the court. However, if you decide to retain the services of an attorney or intervention counselor, fees will apply. If the petition is granted you must be responsible for a service fee payable to the county sheriff’s department.

If you are the parent or guardian of your loved one, their assessment and treatment costs might be covered under your insurance policy or their own. If they are uninsured or incur out-of-pocket expenses, some treatment facilities, such as Guardian Recovery, offer additional payment options, such as self-pay and private pay. 

How Do I Know If My Loved One Needs Treatment?

Individuals with a substance use disorder typically recognize they have a serious problem that needs addressing. Confrontations may be initially met with denial, but over time, the adverse consequences of their condition will become too great to shrug off. Despite this, a person knee-deep in active addiction will likely refuse treatment because their self-destructive behaviors have become so ingrained. 

Friends and family must be able to identify signs of addiction and devise a plan of action if a loved one refuses help despite their dire need for it.

Physical & Mental Signs Your Loved One Needs Treatment:

  • High Tolerance for drugs or alcohol.
  • Red Eyes.
  • Skin problems, such as scabs or scars.
  • Weight loss.
  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Anger and agitation.
  • Low self-esteem.

Social Signs Your Loved One Needs Treatment:

  • Neglecting responsibilities and relationships.
  • Risk-taking and impulsivity, such as drinking and driving.
  • Legal issues, such as arrests for drug possession or public intoxication.
  • Being secretive about drinking habits, hiding alcohol
  • Financial problems due to drinking costs or buying drugs, court fees, unpaid bills, etc.

The best way to approach a substance use problem is to encourage your loved one to seek professional help. If you can successfully convince your loved one to seek treatment on their own accord, you can avoid the Marchman Act petitioning process. At this point it is a good idea to contact a treatment center and learn about the admissions process and the levels of care they offer.

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Loved ones are a crucial part of recovery, and addiction affects a person’s entire family. But you don’t have to feel helpless if someone you care about is in danger of severely injuring themself or someone else due to substance abuse. The Marchman Act can be an effective way to help an individual get the treatment they desperately need, despite being unable to make this decision themselves.

Guardian Recovery offers a multi-faceted, customized addiction treatment program designed to address the unique needs and goals of individuals trapped in the cycle of substance abuse. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation health insurance benefits check and to learn more about how we can help your loved one reclaim their life and begin their recovery journey!

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

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Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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