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Congressman Tom MacArthur

Representing the 3rd District of New Jersey

Congressman Tom MacArthur, co-chair of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force, is urging Governor Phil Murphy to prioritize the creation of a careful, fair, well-crafted involuntary commitment process for families impacted by addiction.

April 24, 2018
Press Release

MacArthur urges Governor Murphy to create a careful, well-crafted involuntary commitment process for families impacted by addiction

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Tom MacArthur, co-chair of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force, is urging Governor Phil Murphy to prioritize the creation of a careful, fair, well-crafted involuntary commitment process for families impacted by addiction.

In a letter to Governor Murphy, Congressman MacArthur wrote, “A majority of states have laws in place that would allow for the involuntary commitment of those struggling with substance abuse. These state laws vary in the details, but they generally provide an avenue of last resort for families trying to help someone who cannot or will not seek help for themselves. Typically these legal processes include numerous safeguards to ensure the process is used properly. Absent a committal process of this kind, there is often no way to get someone treatment who is unable to see their need for it. Passing legislation of this kind in New Jersey would give people another tool to help their loved ones get help.”

This issue was brought to Congressman MacArthur’s attention by Lisa Vandegrift, a Burlington County mother who lost her daughter, Sabrina, to a drug overdose.  She tried everything to save her daughter’s life but her daughter, like many of those who are suffering from substance abuse, could not adequately assess her own condition and chose not to seek help.  

 

 

Full Text of Letter:

Dear Governor Murphy,

 

Drug overdoses kill over 64,000 Americans every year. As co-chair of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force in the United States House of Representatives, I want to draw your attention to an important problem that still needs to be addressed – the difficulty of treating people who are not currently capable of seeking or choosing the help they need.

One of the many constituents I’ve had the honor to meet with regarding the addiction crisis is Lisa Vandegrift, a Burlington County mother who lost her daughter, Sabrina, to a drug overdose. Lisa and her husband, Bill, tried everything they could to save their daughter, but they found, as so many families do, that someone suffering from addiction often cannot adequately assess their own condition or choose to seek the help they need. Lisa has asked me if there was any way I could help her enact some type of legislation in New Jersey that would allow courts to mandate in-patient treatment for those refusing help.

A majority of states have laws in place that would allow for the involuntary commitment of those struggling with substance abuse. These state laws vary in the details, but they generally provide an avenue of last resort for families trying to help someone who cannot or will not seek help for themselves. Typically these legal processes include numerous safeguards to ensure the process is used properly. For example, some legislation limits the length of time an individual can be committed to treatment, requires multiple physicians to sign off on the medical need for treatment, and provides appeal rights for those committed, etc. Absent a committal process of this kind, there is often no way to get someone treatment who is unable to see their need for it. Passing legislation of this kind in New Jersey would give people another tool to help their loved ones get help.

This type of legislation is helping save lives daily across the country and I am hopeful that residents of New Jersey will soon have this option available to them and their families. I am asking you to prioritize the creation of a careful, fair, well-crafted involuntary commitment process for families impacted by addiction. I am willing to help in any way possible as you work through this and other issues facing New Jersey.

Best regards,

 

Tom MacArthur

Member of Congress