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What is Massachusetts General Law Chapter 123, Section 35?

The Section 35 law states that you can ask for a court order that will require someone to be civilly entered and treated unwillingly for abuse of substances or alcohol. To be committed under Section 35, the court must determine the following:

  • The abuse of alcohol or substances is affecting the person's health is a significant way.
  • The person is unable to work or socialize.
  • The person is unable to stop themselves from abusing alcohol or substances.

The following are people that can appeal to the court to request a Section 35 civil commitment on another person:

  • Spouse
  • Family member
  • Guardian
  • Officer of the court
  • Police officer
  • Doctor

How Does The Process Work?

To start the process of a civil commitment under Section 35, you must go to a district or juvenile court. When the court obtains the petition, the person in question will receive a summons. This summons states that they will have to attend court with a judge, with the right of an attorney. If they are unable to afford an attorney, there will be one appointed to them by the court. Judging by the testimony, the court will conclude whether they should involuntarily commit the person. The main factor of the testimony will be the person's medical diagnosis. There will be an assessment of their physical and mental health by a practiced psychologist, doctor or social worker. If the attorney chooses to, they can bring testimonies from family, employers, friends or others involved. To be committed, there must be a possibility of sever physical danger connected to the substance or alcohol the person is using.

What Happens if the Person is Civilly Committed?

If the person is committed, they might be ordered to attend treatment for up to 90 days. They can only be committed to an inpatient substance abuse center that is licensed to treat. The following are centers that you can be committed to:

  • Men's Addiction Treatment Center
  • Women's Addition Treatment Center

If these centers are unable to receive more patients, if male, they can be committed to Bridgewater State Hospital or Framingham Correctional Institution if they are female. To begin treatment, they will be evaluated to see their need for rehab. The person will then begin to learn information on addiction, staying sober and how they can avoid relapsing. It is encouraged that people seek aftercare services and care.

Are There Other Rights Under Section 35?

As long as the commitment continues, on days 30, 45, 60 and 75 will be reviewed by the center's superintendent. To be released early, the center superintendent must say in writing that the person will not cause any severe harm to themselves. Once released, the person can decide to stay at the center or seek additional treatment. Once committed, there should be a customized treatment plan, with four hours of treatment/day, for each person. Physical restraint and any types of searches are banned.

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