Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Law allowing petition for involuntary drug and alcohol treatment was passed in 2004, but is seldom used; big problem is cost

Information about Casey's Law can be found at
A law that allows families and others to file a petition to request involuntary, court-ordered drug treatment for their loved ones has been "slow to catch on around the state, even though the number of overdose deaths continues to rise," Miranda Combs reports for Lexington's WKYT-TV.

Combs reports that from December 2017 through April 2018, Rowan County attorneys filed 19 petitions under Casey's Law -- but before that, they had never used the law to involuntary order drug treatment. The law has been around since 2004.

"The law is for involuntary treatment," Combs writes. "This means a friend, co-worker or family member can file a petition requesting a judge order them to drug treatment. If the user doesn't follow appointments and court dates, a warrant can be issued for their arrest."

Assistant Rowan County Attorney Ashley Adkins, who coordinates the Casey's Law petitions, told Combs that after studying the law she quickly realized that the main barrier for family members to use the law is the expense, which she said costs about about $500 to execute.

"A lot of these families spent money in the past for their loved ones to go to rehab," Adkins says, "They've given them money to help support them so they don't have anything when they come to us. So we realized, if we want to make this work for everyone, there has to be funding available."

To help defray this cost, Adkins told Combs that the county had received a $20,000 grant through Pathways, an addiction resource center, that covers the full cost for families and friends to file a petition under Casey's law, and is also used to help fund the county's syringe-exchange program and efforts aimed at preventing drug abuse.

"The success of the county's way of operating has put Adkins on the road, teaching other counties how to successfully navigate Casey's Law," Combs writes.

"A lot of counties have had some confusion about how it works, or who pays for it," Adkins said. "You run into a lot of roadblocks that you learn along the way. So a lot of counties are just now starting to take advantage of Casey's Law."

Brad Stacy of The Morehead News wrote about a local effort organized by Adkins to educate their community about Casey's Law in January.

He reported that the Rowan County Agency for Substance Abuse Policy board and the county attorney's office held two free Casey's Law trainings in January, including how to manage the legal processes.

The class was led by Charlotte Wethington, who was instrumental in getting the law passed after losing her son Casey to a heroin overdose in 2001. She has since dedicated herself to advocating for Casey's law, which is officially called the "Mathew Casey Wethington Act for Substance Abuse Intervention."

In March, Beth Warren of the Louisville Courier Journal wrote a detailed article showing families and others how to invoke Casey's Law in Louisville. Warren notes a webpage with a step-by-step guide and video on to file a petition in Louisville, which links to another statewide resource: caseyslaw.org/Treatment.htm. She noted that 60 petitions were filed in Louisville in 2017, compared to 27 in 2016.

Warren also notes that parents and others who need added support with Casey's law can ask to join the closed Casey's Law group on Facebook, which has over 1,500 members.

In February, Sam Knef of the Tristate Homepage wrote about a Henderson woman who was forced into rehab through Casey's Law, but not before her family met some roadblocks from a local attorney.

Taylor Willoughby, who was addicted to drugs and ordered into treatment through Casey's law, told Knef, "If they hadn't forced it on me, I don't think I would be alive today."

But her mother, Teresia Johnston, told Knef that when she initially called a local attorney, he "kind of laughed me off, said it doesn't work unless they put themselves in rehab," and called the law "a joke."

However, the Henderson County attorney disagreed and told Knef that Casey's law is an effective way to get people into treatment before they get arrested.

“Court ordered treatment is just effective or more effective as that treatment that somebody decides to go in themselves,” Steve Gold said. “So I’m a believer.”

Knef also notes that the cost of court fees and treatment are huge deterrents to the law, but adds that there are many state-funded centers that offer court-ordered rehab for free.

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