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Kentucky Law Used as Path to Treatment

You may not be aware of Casey’s Law, but for those who access its provisions, it can be a powerful tool to help loved ones get treatment for their addictions.

A story in USA Today tells the tale of a mother in Kentucky who used the law to force her heroin-addicted daughter into treatment. They both now feel the move saved a life.

Robin Knott caught her daughter, then 18, in the bathroom, about to inject heroin. Knott then filed a petition under Casey’s Law, forcing her adult child to go into addiction treatment. The law is based on a legal notion that someone who is addicted is incapable of making the best decisions for their own healthcare. It parallels other laws that take away rights when someone is mentally incapacitated. Kentucky is one of the few states where such laws exist.

The law is named for Matthew Casey Wethington, who died from a heroin overdose in 2002 at the age of 23. Matthew may have been saved if he could have been forced into treatment, but as an adult, he had the right to refuse. Now, under the law, the courts can be petitioned to force addicts into treatment, and in the case of Robin Knott and her daughter, this may have saved her life.

To trigger the law, two healthcare professionals have to testify that a person is incapable of making their own decisions on addiction treatment. One of the two has to be a physician licensed in the state. As it stands now, invoking the law has been growing, with the number of petitions rising to over a hundred in 2011. However, this is still much lower than might be expected, with an average of just one petition filed per year per county (although there is a concentration of petitions in Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties).

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