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Casey’s Law in Ohio

In case you missed it, a law that took effect in March of this year can help you save a life. It’s called “Casey’s Law for Ohio” and is based on similar legislation in Kentucky that passed in 2004. The law’s namesake was Matthew Casey Wethington, a 23 year old who died from heroin addiction. It is thought his death could have been prevented had he been forced into treatment.

Laws that force addicts into treatment parallel other laws where freedoms are taken away based on mental incompetence. The idea is that an addiction can be so powerful, victims are unable to make choices in their own best medical interests.

As enacted in Ohio, Casey’s law allows parents, relatives and/or legal guardians to petition a court on behalf of the addict. One stipulation is that funds must be available for treatment, and generally, this means private funding by family members. Treatment can range from detox through to a full rehab, although after an initial round, addicts who are now sober may decide to quit.

Another critical factor in the legislation is that petitioners have to demonstrate an addict presents an imminent threat of danger to themselves or others, or that such a danger is likely to arise in the future. This limits forced treatment under the law to cases of very serious addiction. The law is most easily applied for heroin use because of this stipulation.

An organization called, “Operation Unite” seeks to get some form of the law enacted across the country. You can read about their efforts here.

In Kentucky, where the law was first passed, use has steadily been growing, starting at only a dozen cases statewide, in 2011, over a hundred petitions were granted. That’s possibly a hundred lives saved.

If you are aware of someone who refuses to go to treatment, despite attempts at intervention, and who has a serious addiction problem, it may be worthwhile to pursue a Casey’s Law case.


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