TAMPA, Fla. — In an opioid epidemic that is killing more than a hundred Americans every day, many families of overdose victims feel helpless when it comes to convincing their loved ones to seek treatment.
Police and other first responders — who often rescue the same people again and again — are similarly frustrated about their lack of authority to detain users long enough for their heads to clear so they can consider treatment.
But here in Tampa, police, health care professionals and families have a powerful legal tool not available in many other places: the 1993 Marchman Act. Families and health care professionals can use the state law to “marchman,” or involuntarily commit people into substance abuse treatment when they are deemed a danger to themselves or others.
Although the statute applies to all jurisdictions in the state, court records show that it has been employed in Tampa and surrounding Hillsborough County far more than anywhere else. Hillsborough County accounts for less than 7 percent of the state’s population and more than 40 percent of its Marchman commitments.