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Essential Treatment Act

In the 2016 Utah legislative session, HB 0286 was passed and the signed into law on March 25th, 2017 by Governor Herbert. “This bill establishes a process for an individual suffering from a substance use disorder to receive court-ordered essential treatment and intervention.” (le.utah.gov, 2017)). This legislation allows for family members to ask the court to involuntarily commit a person to court ordered treatment on the grounds that the individual is a danger to themselves and unable to meet the basic and essential needs of caring for themselves (le.utah.gov, 2017). This is the same type of process that people in the field of mental health already use to commit someone against their will for mental health issues. This policy also requires that families who seek commitment of their loved one also have the funds to pay for the treatment required.

            There is really only one pro to this policy, the fact that some people will receive treatment who otherwise would likely never go or would die.

            The cons to this policy are significant. For one, it is a violation of a person’s civil rights to involuntarily commit them anywhere. This is why there is such a high burden of proof in mental health cases. It is also concerning to think about the consequences of forcing someone into treatment who does not want to be there. Those people are more likely to run from treatment and use again after a period of abstinence, which increases their chances of overdose significantly. It also begs the question, if the person does run from treatment, they would likely be arrested and incarcerated for contempt of court or noncompliance, which would cost more than treatment. It is also likely to cost families a lot of money that they may not have if they have to bare the financial burden of treatment and their loved one runs way. It may also have significant social impacts, such as intensified family issues and disconnection from loved ones. It also sends a message to substance users that they are incapable of making decisions for themselves which hinders a person’s ability to believe they can ever make good choices.

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