“We’re not trying to violate their civil liberties; we’re just trying to save their lives,” said Joan Arlinghaus. Arlinghaus lives in Kentucky, where she helps parents and family members navigate “Casey’s Law.” Passed in 2004, the statute allows family members of drug users to petition courts to grant conservatorships to commit them to treatment, provided they arrange a treatment bed ahead of time.
“We’re not trying to violate their civil liberties; we’re just trying to save their lives.”
“You are forcing this person into treatment and punishing them if they do not comply,” he said. “I think a lot of people may view civil commitments as a less harsh version, but again, you’re still taking people’s freedoms away from them, and making their health care decisions for them.”Researchers agree that involuntary commitment to drug treatment is understudied, but as a 2016 review published in the International Journal of Drug Policy found, available “[e]vidence does not, on the whole, suggest improved outcomes related to compulsory treatment approaches, with some studies suggesting potential harms,” including high potential for abuse within treatment centers. Instead, lawmakers should fund “non-compulsory” and evidence-based treatment. But rather than funding evidence-based techniques like medication-assisted treatment, lawmakers and judges are just throwing more and more opioid users into “jail lite,” according to critics. Owing to poor data collection, outcomes of U.S. involuntary commitment laws are murky. But what numbers are available indicate that use of involuntary commitments has steadily risen over the past decade.
“You’re still taking people’s freedoms away from them, and making their health care decisions for them.”