Health Law

Mom uses Kentucky law to force adult daughter into drug treatment

Candice Williamson got treatment for her drug addiction because of a Kentucky law that allowed her mother to petition the court for forced treatment.

Williamson was 18 when her mother walked in to the bathroom and saw Williamson preparing to inject herself with heroin, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports in a story reprinted in USA Today. Williamson’s mother, Robin Knott, learned about “Casey’s Law” from a friend and petitioned a court to order involuntary treatment.

Kentucky lawmakers passed the law in 2004, dubbed “Casey’s Law” for a youth who died of a heroin overdose. Ohio passed a similar law last year. Casey’s Law petitions have surged in three northern Kentucky counties, including Kenton County, where Williamson was ordered into treatment, the story says. More than 100 Casey’s Law petitions were filed in Kentucky in 2011, and more than half came from those three counties.

The law, modeled after a Florida statute, requires evidence that the subject is a danger to self or others, and it requires a medical evaluation by a physician and another health professional. According to an October article in the New York Times Well blog, more than 20 states permit involuntary addiction treatment, though the requirements vary.

The author of the Well article, physician Paul Christopher, says some states require the subject to be a danger to oneself, others or property; some require impaired decision-making; and some require “something as vague as losing control of oneself.” Christopher advocates more research on the efficacy of forced-treatment statutes. “Science must guide the crafting of these laws,” he writes, “but for now the empirical jury is decidedly out.”

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