Is it possible to send someone to addiction treatment without their consent?
Yes. Under Section 35, a doctor, family member, or police officer can petition the courts to have an individual involuntarily committed for treatment. To meet the criteria for being ‘sectioned,’ the person must have an alcohol or substance abuse problem and be a proven risk to themselves or others.
A medical professional must evaluate them, and then the case goes to court. A judge can then ‘section’ an individual for a period of up to 90 days. For women, being sectioned means getting treatment at a civil facility, but for men, it’s typically in a jail. Once committed, the individual undergoes detoxification—an often painful process—before being released into the general population.
Involuntary Commitment in Massachusetts
Although the program has existed since the 1970s, the number of individuals undergoing involuntary commitment in Massachusetts has skyrocketed over the past decade. This staggering 66 percent increase is due, in large part, no doubt, to the opioid crisis that is overtaking the state.
Hampden County Jail is just one example of a men’s involuntary commitment facility that doubles as a prison. The men undergoing treatment in jail are housed separately from the convicted felons, and are called clients rather than inmates or prisoners.
Although the men live in jail cells, they are not forcibly confined to their sleeping quarters the way a prisoner would be. Their days are structured but not rigid, and they have the freedom to choose how they conduct their days. For the men who are involuntarily committed, the end goal is recovery and rehabilitation, not punishment.
Medical assistance is available around the clock, as is access to addiction relief and management drugs, such as methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. Clients are also encouraged to use the services of the addiction counselors on staff and, much like in a voluntary facility, individual and group therapy sessions are offered daily.
Not everyone agrees about the benefits of involuntary commitment. Some, like Nick Cocchi, Sheriff of the Hampden County Jail, are proponents of this system, while others are critical of it. Those against sectioning believe it only increases the stigma against seeking help for addiction and positions addicted individuals as criminals.
The Reality of Involuntary Commitment in Addiction Treatment
Regardless of public opinion on its benefits, sectioning is not a cure for addiction; it is a first step, and one of many. In truth, a failsafe cure does not exist. The only way forward is through healthy coping mechanisms and constant dedication to sobriety.
Individuals who undergo involuntary commitment receive treatment for their addictions, whether they’re ready for it or not. Because of this, involuntary commitment should be considered only when there is no other option.
Those who elect to undergo addiction treatment are often more receptive to it, and when it comes to rehab, you tend to get out what you put in. When you are ready and willing to make a change, Landmark Recovery is here to help. Make a commitment to yourself; reach out today and take that first step towards the life you dream of.