An application for an involuntary admission to treatment for substance dependence should be considered if an addict (respondent) is out of control and at risk of harming themselves or others. It is a process that can only happen through a Magistrates Court and should result in a full and proper court order. The value of such an order is to compel the respondent into treatment, to hold them in treatment for the recommended period and to ensure compliance with aftercare recommendations.
If an order is being considered the following process should be followed:
- A full and proper assessment must be conducted in a face-to-face interview by a duly qualified social worker. This assessment is to ensure that an application is legally viable, that the respondent meets the criteria of the Act and that it is therapeutically appropriate. It is also an opportunity to assess issues around length of required treatment, suitable treatment centres, costs of treatment, transport of the respondent and other such related issues.
- If it is found to be a suitable application the social worker and applicant (who is ideally a close relative of the addict and has daily experience of their addiction), then prepare the required documentation for the court. This includes, but may not be limited to, the social worker’s report, applicant’s affidavit, medical certificate and copy of the treatment centre’s registration certificate. A bed at a suitably registered treatment centre is also secured at this time.
- Once the documentation is finalised the relevant Magistrates Court (based on the respondent’s residential address) is approached. The court then has it at their discretion to issue a summons, warrant or to allow the respondent to appear of their own accord.
- The respondent, social worker and applicant must then appear before the court for the application to be presented to the Magistrate. The respondent will have an opportunity to contest the application and can ask for legal representation in order to do so. This may result in the enquiry being delayed for appropriate representation to be secured.
- Once the application is presented to the court the Magistrate will decide based on the evidence before the court. If the court finds in favour of the application, then the respondent will be required to proceed directly to treatment and to remain in said treatment for the recommended period.
- Once treatment is complete the order will stand for a further two-year period during which the respondent is still compelled to follow aftercare recommendations. If during this time the respondent relapses into the use of substances, they may be recalled back into treatment for a further period of time.
Written by: Tracy Helps - Social Worker