Kentucky Mom Uses State Law to Save Daughter From Heroin

By Victoria Kim 05/29/13

Some states allow parents to petition the court for involuntary drug treatment for their kids.

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Candice Williamson (left) says Casey's Law
saved her life
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When Kentucky resident Robin Knott found her 18-year-old daughter, Candice Williamson, on the bathroom floor with a syringe of heroin, she felt powerless to help on her own. So she filed a petition under a state statute called "Casey's Law" and petitioned the court to order involuntary treatment—or "involuntary commitment"—for her daughter, USA Today reports. The Matthew Casey Wethington Act for Substance Abuse Intervention was enacted in 2004, to commemorate Casey Wethington of Kenton County, who died of a heroin overdose in 2002 at age 23. The law provides a means of intervention for friends and families of those with an addiction who are unable to recognize their own need for treatment. After a petition is filed, if an addict is deemed in "imminent threat of danger" to themselves or others, they are evaluated by health professionals, followed by a hearing to determine whether treatment is necessary. The addict may then ordered by the court to complete 60 to 360 days of treatment. Kenton County Attorney Garry Edmondson says many people don't know about the law—so he tries to spread the word. "We put it out there as much as we can," he says. "Then of course, we get calls about it all the time from parents...Sometimes they feel hopeless. We tell them this is something they can do." Williamson is now clean of heroin and attends AA and NA meetings, and is proactive in spreading the word about Casey's Law.

As of 2007, 19 states allowed court-ordered "inpatient commitment" for drug or alcohol addiction, and 41 statesincluding South Carolina, Ohio, Washington, and Colorado and DC—allow some form of involuntary outpatient treatment. But some say these laws are not enough on their own. Marchman's Act in Florida is very similar to Casey's Law, but state resident Sharon Blair tells The Fix that her daughter Jennifer Reynolds, died of a prescription drug overdose after Blair filed out five petitions which were all denied by courts. Blair has been pushing for the Jennifer Act, which would offer families more tools for treatment. "Our prisons are overflowing with inmates," she tells us, "Instead of housing them and telling them they're a bad person [and] we're going to punish you because you have an addiction, you could use funding to provide substance treatment."

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr