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What Is Casey’s Law and How Can I Use It?

by Landmark Recovery

March 20, 2020
Two individuals holding hands

Updated: August 1, 2023, at 10:14 a.m.

What is Casey’s Law” is of the most frequently asked questions we get from readers and we’re here to conclusively answer that today.

If you’ve ever seen a friend or family member drinking or using drugs to the extent that addiction sets in, perhaps you secretly wish you could force them into rehab. Well, with Casey’s Law, you can as long as you live in Kentucky or Ohio.

So, what is this mechanism and how can you put it into practice?

What Is Casey’s Law?

The outside of a courthouse

The Matthew Casey Wethington Act for Substance Abuse Intervention is a law that allows a family member or friend to lawfully intervene in their loved one’s drug or alcohol addiction and initiate involuntary rehab without fear of prosecution. The Kentucky law is named for Matthew “Casey” Wethington, who started using opiates recreationally as a teenager but soon found himself in the throes of addiction. He died after falling into a heroin-induced coma in 2004 at age 23.

Challenging The “Rock Bottom” Addiction Treatment Approach

After his tragic and untimely death, Matthew’s mother, Charlotte Wethington, campaigned for the right to use the legal framework to put someone in rehab involuntarily. The typical response to these initial campaigns was that putting someone into rehab is pointless unless they go willingly after hitting rock bottom. Wethington successfully challenged the rock bottom approach.

Addiction counselors agree that viewing addiction as a disease rather than a crime is central to sustained recovery. Prosecution and judgment invariably compound the negative spiral of an addict’s problems. A rehabilitative approach which treats addiction as a disease and the addict as a person who needs love and respect, will generally yield stronger results.

Since the passing of the law in 2004, Wethington has dedicated herself to educating people throughout Kentucky and Ohio about Casey’s law as well as raising awareness about heroin addiction.

Is Casey’s Law An Effective Way of Kick-Starting Recovery?

There is a common theme that emerges in the testimonials of recovering addicts treated thanks to the application of Casey’s Law. Despite initially feeling that their rights were being violated, these individuals agreed they were not in a proper state of mind. Following successful detox and recovery, that feeling is replaced by an overwhelming gratitude for Casey’s Law.

Someone in the throes of addiction is not in a mental place where they have rational thoughts.

Casey’s Law Testimonials

If you see a loved one struggling with addiction, remember this:

“The addict doesn’t think he needs help. Well, of course, he doesn’t. All he thinks he needs is one more.”

A rehabilitative approach, then, far outweighs punitive measures if sustained recovery is the goal. People embracing recovery attribute their success to having been treated with care and compassion “in a controlled environment given direction, guidance, and love.”

One woman who wishes to remain anonymous reported, “He [the judge] made me feel comfortable, and made me feel like he really cared.”

You can get assistance from the court system without having to file criminal charges.

From 2004 to 2015, twenty-four of Casey’s Law cases were filed in Pike County, Kentucky. From 2015 to 2018, 81 Casey’s Law cases have been filed.

The laudable work that Wethington has achieved has evidently made a positive impact already. Interviews with recovering addicts who have received treatment as a result of Casey’s Law reveal a shower of gratitude towards her.

Here are just a handful of comments from those interviewed.

“Casey’s law saved my life.”

 “Because of Casey’s law, I can help someone from dying alone.”

 “If it doesn’t work the first time, keep following it because eventually, it will work.”

 “I don’t have any felonies because my parents stepped in. Because they love me, they stepped in and realized that eventually, it was going to happen.”

 “I feared that my daughter would never talk to me again. But she did talk to me, and we have the best relationship now because of Casey’s law.”

How To Use Casey’s Law To Get Treatment

Two individuals holding hands

So, Casey’s Law is a way to harness the legal system to ensure a loved one gets treatment for addiction even if they don’t think they need it.

Here are the steps of what you need to do in Kentucky and Ohio…

In Kentucky

  • Step One: Download and complete the petition for involuntary treatment. The form asks you to explain how the person is a danger to themselves and others.
  • Step Two: Contact your county attorney at the Kentucky County Attorney Association.
  • Step Three: Go to court. You will be questioned under oath. Based on your answers, the court will decide whether or not to send your loved one to involuntary rehab.
  • Step Four: If they decide to proceed, they will request the person concerned attend a hearing two weeks later.
  • Step Five: Two medical staff, one being a physician, will medically examine the addicted individual.
  • Step Six: The court then decides whether to send the addicted person to rehab and, if so, for how long (between 30 and 360 days).

Note: you will need to pay for the treatment. The petitioner is responsible for finding the addiction treatment facility and for funding it.


To file for involuntary treatment in Ohio, the procedure varies from county to county. You’ll need to contact your county probate court and ask them what specific steps you need to take.

Currently in Ohio, the petitioner is expected to pay for treatment upfront. That said, changes are being implemented to the law to make involuntary treatment more financially accessible for all.

As of March 2020, changes are also being made to force medical insurance to provide cover and to get the filing charges removed.

In Ohio, to be eligible for Casey’s law, the addicted person must satisfy the following criteria:

  • They present a danger to themselves and/or others
  • They are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol
  • Treatment will benefit them even if they don’t feel they have a problem

What To Do Next

The hope that Charlotte Wethington’s work continues to inspire is refreshing. With any luck, Casey’s law will hit a tipping point and someday become applicable nationwide.

Until then, you can take action and proactively help a loved one enter recovery as long as you live in Kentucky or Ohio. Now that you better understand Casey’s Law, call our confidential admissions line today at 888-448-0302 to help someone you care about find a guided path to recovery. We can typically arrange for treatment to begin within a few days, so contact us today.

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About the Author

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery was founded with a determination to make addiction treatment accessible for all. Through our integrated treatment programs, we've helped thousands of people choose recovery over addiction and get back to life on their own terms. We're on a mission to save one million lives over the next century. We encourage all those struggling with substance use to seek professional help.