Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Drug treatment law must go

Kentucky has many things to be proud of - like being a free-bargaining state, for instance.

But Kentucky has a statewide curse that seems to make it almost unique: Because of a 2004 law, Kentucky is one of very few states where adults can be involuntary placed in drug or alcohol treatment by family members - or even by people outside the family.

This statute lets people ask a court to involuntarily commit someone for their alleged drug abuse.

Why is this law bad? It chips away at the basic civil liberties of Kentuckians who might be targeted by this law. Also, many so-called drug treatment programs are frauds - or even cults. This is true not just of programs for young people but of adult programs as well.

A website describing this law says the court won't commit anyone unless they pose a danger to themselves or others. But we all know that's a dog-and-pony show - a mutually understood lie. The same terminology has long been abused to have people committed to psychiatric institutions.

Under this law, if respondents refuse to show up for their evaluation, they may be arrested and transported to a facility to be examined. You can be ordered to undergo up to 360 days of treatment - almost a full year. Failure to comply brings contempt of court charges.

Believe me, I've heard all the defenses there are of this statute. I don't accept the argument that a person's supposed need for treatment should take priority over their freedom (especially when they're old enough to make all their own decisions). Our constitutional republic is supposed to be based on liberty and fairness. Indeed, I believe the law allowing involuntary treatment is unconstitutional.

Even before this law passed, Kentucky was rife with abuses of laws allowing people to be sent to psychiatric wards. There was already a whole system in place to have people locked up over nothing. Machine-selected judges created almost a built-in bias against respondents.

I suspected Kentucky's drug treatment law might be unique - and I've now found only one other state with a law similar to Kentucky's. That state is Florida - which has long been known as one of the worst when it comes to the rights of those targeted by phony treatment programs.

Florida's law passed in 1993 - so it appears as if these laws didn't even exist in America until my adult life.

The Florida statue is unusual though in that it applies to people who don't even live in Florida. If even a nonresident sets foot in the Sunshine State, they're open for the fight of their lives. One law firm boasts on its website that it fields calls from people all over the country who want to take their family members to Florida so they can be locked up.

Be wary if those difficult in-laws offer you a free Disney World vacation.

In the meantime, the involuntary drug treatment laws found in Kentucky, Florida, or any other states that may have them must be repealed with all haste.

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