More News:

May 26, 2023

Pa. senators consider bill to involuntarily commit people, who overdose and are revived, to addiction treatment centers

Sen. Anthony Williams, of Philadelphia, and a Republican from Eries would be the legislation's sponsors

Government Drug Addiction
involuntary drug rehab Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

Two Pennsylvania senators want to introduce a bill in Harrisburg that would have people who overdose and are revived, using an overdose reversal drug like Narcan, committed involuntarily to an addiction treatment facility.

Over the last three years, more than 75,000 doses of the overdose reversal drug Naloxone were administered to patients in Pennsylvania, but the aftershocks of an overdose remain challenging as patients fight relapses.

On Thursday, two Pennsylvania state senators announced a bipartisan effort to help individuals regain control of their lives after an overdose.

Sens. Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) and Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia) said Thursday that they plan to introduce legislation in Harrisburg, creating an involuntary commitment process for patients who have been transported to a hospital to be evaluated after a life-sustaining drug was administered to combat an overdose. 

"While the ability to administer a life-sustaining medication has reduced the death rate, it is not treatment and does little to address the individual's underlying substance use disorder," Laughlin said in a statement. "Treatment will allow individuals to regain their hopes, dreams, goals and most importantly, their lives." 

The involuntary commitment process will be similar to the 302 commitment process provided by Pennsylvania's Mental Health Procedures Act, placing those who are a danger to themselves and others in treatment centers, the lawmakers said.

Right now, 35 states and the District of Columbia have enacted involuntary commitment laws for those suffering with substance use disorder, the lawmakers wrote in a memo seeking legislative support for their proposal. 

Substance use disorder — or SUD — is a treatable mental health condition that affects a person's brain and behavior, leading to their inability to control their use of substances. 

Prior to the pandemic, Pennsylvania' drug overdose death rate was one of the highest in the nation, the lawmakers said, citing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

The lawmakers also noted that in 2021, the most recent year of CDC data, Pennsylvania recorded 5,449 overdose deaths, its highest-ever. 

"Left untreated, the disorder will result in additional overdose situations requiring more doses of life-sustaining medication," Williams said in the statement. "That's no way to live, and we need to take a stand and address the underlying mental health issue that is depriving too many people of life and liberty."

Individuals with SUD often have clouded judgment and are a harm to themselves and others, and can eventually lead to jail time or worse for individuals, the lawmakers said, adding that they hope that the legislation will help individuals with SUD move forward with treatment and recovery. 

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.