Addiction Laws in California

In 2000, California passed a state version of a parity law that is considered the precursor to the now federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (2008).  As such pioneering legislation suggests, California voters are very aware of the importance of mental health.  But the corollary is that they are equally conscious of the importance of upholding the rights of those with mental illness, which sometimes presents a challenge for family members who are seeking a legal way to force their loved one to get help. The complete California Health and Safety Code and California Welfare and Institutions Code outline when and by whom an addict can be subjected to compulsory rehab treatment, but the paragraphs that follow discuss a few possible ways to help.

On the medical side, it is “legal” to be an addict or suffer from other forms of mental illness like schizophrenia or depression as long as these conditions do not compel the person to threaten to take their own life or the life of someone else, or if the person’s impairments make them “gravely disabled.”  Should one of these situations occur, however, certain authorities (including psychiatrists, certified psychologists and social workers, and police officers) can use the “5150 – Involuntary Psychiatric Hold” code (part of the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act) to detain the person for mandatory hospitalization for a period of 72 hours to be evaluated and treated.  After this time, the person is reassessed and, in most cases, able to leave (even against medical advice) or remain voluntarily. Keep in mind that this option is primarily used for mental illness that threatens someone’s physical well-being and only offers a short-term solution; however, there is often a link between addiction and mental illnesses so it may be helpful for some families in certain situations.

Crime doesn’t pay, but reporting your loved one’s criminal activities might. One appearance before a judge might accomplish what you have been trying to do for months, years, or even decades unsuccessfully. Proposition 36, passed in 2000, gives 1st- and 2nd-time non-violent offenders whose crime was basic drug possession the option of receiving treatment for addiction instead of going to jail. Sections 3050-3055 detail the situations when a court can require a person to attend treatment for addiction to narcotics.  Keep in mind, however, that the courts will not necessarily pay the cost of rehab.  Sections 3100-3111 describe the instances when one or more people can petition the court to detain someone for treatment if the person has not committed a crime.

Finally, parents of minors often have more options than do family members of adult addicts.  Ask your attorney about specific circumstances.

California-Specific Addiction Resources

For complete legal information specific to your situation, consult your lawyer.  

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