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Court-Aided Intervention Available For Addicts

The Jacksonville Daily Record
Duval County Magistrate Dianne Misiak conducts Marchman Act hearings each Thursday at the Duval County Courthouse.

Established in 1993, the Hal S. Marchman Alcohol and Other Drug Services Act provides for emergency assistance and temporary detention for people who need substance abuse evaluation or treatment.

When judiciously applied, it can help someone overcome addiction and its social side effects through a court-ordered framework that supports recovery.

Our Jacksonville Daily Record news partner reports Duval County Magistrate Dianne Misiak, who conducts Marchman Act hearings each Thursday at the Duval County Courthouse, said the process could be described as “court-aided intervention.”

Similar to the Baker Act that addresses mental health issues, a Marchman Act proceeding begins when someone familiar with the impaired person files a petition in county court for involuntary assessment.

That’s usually a family member or close friend who believes the impaired person has lost the power of self-control and may inflict harm upon themselves or others.

After hearing the relevant testimony, the court may enter an order for involuntary assessment for a period of up to five days.

Following assessment and review, the court may then order involuntary treatment for a period up to 60 days.

That’s where the challenge arises in Duval County.

“Our biggest issue is lack of beds for residential treatment,” Misiak said.

The city of Jacksonville funds 23 beds at Gateway Community Services for court-ordered residential substance abuse treatment, but that’s only about half the number of beds needed, Misiak said.

The other option is a private rehabilitation facility, but that’s rarely an option.

“Most people in Marchman court don’t have insurance,” Misiak said. “That’s the frustrating part. People come to court and ask for help, but there’s no place to put them.”

The sole other resource funded by the city is a program conducted at the jail, but most of the people who appear in Marchman court haven’t been apprehended for a crime, Misiak said.

About three months ago, the nonprofit City Rescue Mission got involved and is offering its LifeBuilders Residential Recovery Program as a resource.

It’s an individualized rehabilitation program that includes counseling, medical care and workforce development skills training over a period of up to 18 months.

City Rescue Mission Executive Director Penny Kievet said there are about 140 people currently enrolled in the program, including three who were referred by the Marchman court.

“They added it to their menu. Those judges want to see people’s lives change,” she said.

While the partnership is in its early stage, it may prove to be a valuable option.

“So far, we have been able to accommodate everyone the court has sent to us,” Kievet said.