Pennsylvania Governor Offers Support For Mandatory Treatment Bill

By Victoria Kim 10/24/17

The bill would allow a spouse, guardian or relative to file a petition with the state to get the individual to enter treatment.

Governor Tom Wolf

Pennsylvania lawmakers are pushing efforts to address the state’s opioid problem—but one proposal in particular is drawing criticism.

Governor Tom Wolf promised his support for legislation that would force mandatory treatment on certain individuals with substance use disorder.

A bill introduced by state Senator Jay Costa would allow a spouse, guardian or relative to file a petition with the state to get the individual to enter treatment. They would have to prove with a doctor’s note that the person is in dire need of treatment, and put down a deposit for half of the expected cost of rehab.

If the petition is approved, the individual would be able to dispute the petition and get a second doctor’s opinion. Otherwise, they’ll be picked up by the state and transported to a treatment facility. If they refuse treatment, the individual could be charged with contempt of court, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

According to Senator Costa, forcing people to get help is a necessary step. “It’s a level of mandatory treatment I think is necessary,” he said according to the Post-Gazette. “The conversation needs to take place.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) disagrees with involuntary rehab, which is being considered by lawmakers from New Hampshire to Mississippi.

“I heard from a number of folks throughout the commonwealth [who] have expressed to me that they feel helpless at times trying to get treatment for a loved one,” Senator Costa said in February.

Governor Wolf announced Friday (Oct 20) that the state will distribute 120,000 doses of naloxone (the drug that’s used to reverse opioid overdose) to first responders, emphasizing that we should recognize every overdose as “a real cry for help.”

“You cannot get into treatment if you’re not alive,” said the governor.

Also this month, the governor announced that his administration will dedicate about $6 million to support medication-assisted therapy (MAT) programs, expand drug courts, and support initiatives that direct drug offenders to treatment options rather than jail.

Wolf also promised to support legislation that would limit opioid prescriptions to seven days (excluding certain patients), regulate recovery houses funded by the state, and mandate opioid education in schools.

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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