In 2002, nearly 10 years prior to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s declaration of an opioid epidemic in the United States, 23-year-old Casey Wethington of Ohio lost his life to heroin overdose. Wethington began experimenting with drugs in his early teenage years, mostly because he struggled to find something to occupy his attention. Like most everyone else who becomes addicted to drugs, Casey never wanted to end up hooked on drugs. Unfortunately, he gradually went from drug abuse to drug dependence and eventually to full-blown addiction. Within less than a decade, Casey would go from a young teenager with a promise for the future to a young man who’s disease stopped him in his tracks for good.
During Casey’s heroin addiction, his parents exhausted every possible avenue they could in an effort to get Casey to accept treatment. At that time, resources for substance use disorders were much less available than they are today, leaving Casey’s parents to take on the full duty of getting him into treatment. When Casey passed, his parents worked to put Casey’s Law into motion so that other friends and family of people struggling with addiction can have better options and support to get their loved one into treatment.
What is Casey’s Law?
The Matthew Casey Wethington Act of Substance Abuse Intervention, or “Casey’s Law” went into effect in July of 2004. Under this law, relatives and friends of an addicted individual can request that he or she receives court-ordered substance abuse treatment. This law does not permit the addicted individual to have a say in the court’s decision, as it is involuntary and utilized in some of the most difficult cases. As of 2020, this law is only legal in the states of Ohio and Kentucky.
How Does Casey’s Law Work?
If you have a loved one who is addicted to drugs and is on an obvious spiral downward, then you can understand just how hard it can be to get them to accept treatment. You might feel the weight of the world on your shoulders as you look for several ways to talk to your loved one about their addiction in a way that leads to professional treatment. You may even become anxious, depressed, or completely stressed out about the situation. That is what Casey’s parents felt when they were left to get Casey into treatment on their own. Thankfully, however, because of Casey and his family, families in Ohio and Kentucky do not need to go about this alone, especially in the most serious of cases.
Casey’s Law cannot be enacted for anyone and everyone who struggles with getting into treatment, rather it is reserved for those who qualify for involuntary commitment into a treatment center. It is not up to you to make this decision, rather it is the courts. However, you should only utilize Casey’s Law when your loved one is in immediate danger of hurting themselves or others and is incapable of understanding that risk.
If you believe that your loved one can benefit from Casey’s Law, there are many steps that you will need to take in order for that to be approved. These steps include the following, per the Commonwealth of Kentucky:
- Get a copy of the petition (known as form 700A – the Verified Petition for Involuntary Treatment of Alcohol/Drug Abuse) from the District Court’s office
- Complete the petition (you must be a relative, friend, guardian, or spouse of the user) and return it to the District Court clerk’s office to be filed
- The court will review the petition and examine the person who filled out the petition under oath
- The court will determine if there is probable cause to order treatment for the user named in the petition
- If probable cause is established, a judge will appoint an attorney to represent the person named in the petition (the user), order them to be evaluated and to schedule a hearing with 14 days
- The user is notified of the date and the purpose of the hearing
- The user will receive an evaluation from two health professionals (one of which being a physician) to determine if the user can benefit from addiction treatment
- If the judge finds that the user should be admitted into treatment, the court will order treatment between 60-360 days depending on the request in the petition and the evaluation.
The treatment options that the court will provide to the user will vary based on what their own personal needs are for care. These options range from detoxification to intensive treatment and into recovery.
When Might You Need to Intervene?
Not all drug addicts will need their friends, family, and other loved ones to intervene in their disease in such a serious manner as some do through Casey’s Law. However, there are many drug addicts who can benefit from being involuntarily ordered to attend substance abuse treatment.
In order to be considered for Casey’s Law, the user must:
- Have a substance use disorder
- Present a danger or threat of danger to self, family, or others because of their substance abuse
- Can reasonably benefit from treatment
What this means is that those individuals struggling with substance use disorders to the extent that they are unable to keep themselves and/or others safe due to their substance abuse can be involuntarily sent to treatment if a court deems it appropriate. Casey’s Law is not usually enacted for those drug and alcohol users who:
- Can still function regularly despite their substance abuse
- Are experiencing a mild case of substance use disorder
- Who are in the stages of abusing drugs (prior to the development of dependence and addiction)
Casey’s Law should be utilized as a last-ditch effort, as involuntarily committing a loved one is never easy and can leave scars that may never heal. Despite the interpersonal repercussions that may come from moving forward with Casey’s Law, implementing this law into a loved one’s life who needs it to survive outweighs everything else. That does not mean that there are not several other resources available to help intervene in your loved one’s addiction, as there are interventionists, therapists, psychiatrists, and a variety of addiction specialists who can help encourage your loved one’s acceptance of treatment. Casey’s Law, however, adds more to the arsenal for those who are working to get their loved one into treatment when everything else fails.
Does Someone You Love Need Help? Call Us at JourneyPure Today.
We understand the challenges that come with watching a loved one suffer from a drug addiction. It is something that we see on a regular basis. At JourneyPure, we have a multitude of mental health and medical professionals on-site who can help your loved one end their active addiction and begin building a solid foundation for their recovery. With the help of our skilled and compassionate team, your loved one can turn it all around for the better.
Do not wait. Reach out to us at JourneyPure right now. We can help you and your loved one get through this painful obstacle in life. You do not need to go through this alone. Call us today.
Michelle Rosenker is a content writer for JourneyPure where she gets to exercise her journalistic skills by working with different addiction treatment centers nationwide. She has 10 years of experience in the field of addiction treatment and mental health and has written content for some of the country’s most prominent treatment centers and behavioral hospitals. Through her writing, Michelle is proud to continually raise awareness about the disease of addiction and share hope for the future. She lives next to the ocean in Massachusetts with her husband, two young children, and faithful dog.