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New Jersey: Involuntary Outpatient Commitment Goes Statewide

The United States is in the grip of a major nationwide drug epidemic. Over the years, more and more people are turning to increasingly hard and dangerous drugs, even at younger and younger ages. Nowadays it’s not uncommon to see adolescents and teens in residential treatment programs or senior citizens who are unable to receive opioid medications for chronic pain due to having a history of chemical dependency.

What’s more, high rates of addiction mean more people than ever before are turning to drug-related crimes—theft, armed robbery, prostitution, and so on—in order to sustain their drug habits, leaving their family and friends feeling helpless as their addicted loved ones risk convictions and prison sentences that irreparably damage their lives and ruin futures that had once been so promising.

For many loved ones of addicts, staging an intervention can encourage an individual who has succumbed to substance abuse to rehabilitate by entering an inpatient or residential addiction treatment program. In fact, interventions have an extremely high success rate, especially when family members seek the expertise of an intervention specialist and made thorough preparations for the loving confrontation. Unfortunately, the success of an intervention is not a guarantee; though it happens less often overall, it’s not entirely uncommon for an addict to reject offers of help and treatment. The fact of the matter is that you cannot

Unfortunately, the success of an intervention is not a guarantee; though it happens less often overall, it’s not entirely uncommon for an addict to reject offers of help and treatment. The fact of the matter is that you cannot force an addict into abstinence and recovery, which is why there are such high rates of recidivism among addicts who serve prison sentences, quickly returning to their former dependency and criminal activities once they’ve regained their freedom. It’s widely accepted that for an addict to have success in recovery, he or she must choose to begin addiction treatment of his or her own accord rather than being forced into recovery.

The Outpatient Commitment Pilot Program in New Jersey

However, that seems to be changing. Just a few years ago in 2009, Jon Corzine—governor of New Jersey at the time—signed the Outpatient Commitment Law and instituted a pilot trial for the Bergen County, which is the most highly populated county in the state of New Jersey. Already enacted in 42 states, the Outpatient Commitment Law sought to be somewhat of a compromise for individuals who were in need of intensive treatments, but who may not currently be an immediate danger to themselves or others.

In particular, there are several instances where outpatient commitment is beneficial. On a case-by-case basis, judges can determine whether an individual suffering from a mental illness who is not a danger to him or herself or others is in need of mandatory treatment, enacting outpatient commitment so that the individual the individual can participate in the needed treatments and be closely monitored for progress while remaining a part of the community and able to continue engaging in all of the individual’s normal activities and routine.

What’s more, outpatient commitment can be enacted when the individual could become a danger to him or herself or others in the future, allowing the individual to be monitored closely so that, in the event that he or she becomes dangerous, the individual can be placed into involuntary inpatient treatment if it is deemed necessary.

Involuntary and outpatient commitment have been important in the state of New Jersey due to the prevalence of individuals who suffer from mental illness, for which involuntary inpatient and outpatient commitment is intended. As of 2014, there are nearly 7 million individuals living in New Jersey—of which almost a million live in Bergen County alone—and the number of New Jersey residents suffering from a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder total more than 260,000. However, this figure doesn’t take into account the countless New Jersey residents who are currently suffering from substance abuse and addiction, which would significantly increase the number of individuals whose mental health is suffering.

Consequently, lawmakers and officials in New Jersey have sought to enact more effective policies that ensure these individuals receive the treatments necessary to improve, even if that’s against their own will if they’ve proven to be dangerous to themselves, others, or property. According to the legal criteria for classifying an individual as being dangerous, he or she must have demonstrated an inability to nourish oneself without assistance and be unable to satisfy the need for medical care or shelter.

New legislation, including laws pertaining to involuntary and outpatient commitment, require that the individual’s history, recent behavior, and recent acts, threats, or deterioration be considered when determining whether an individual could be considered dangerous and in need of medical intervention.

Involuntary Outpatient Commitment Goes Statewide in New Jersey

According to officials, the Bergen County pilot testing for involuntary outpatient commitment was extremely successful. Until recently, the program had been expanded to only five more of New Jersey’s 21 counties, which included Burlington, Essex, Hudson, Ocean, Warren, and Union Counties. As part of involuntary commitment, much success has also been attributed to intensive case management that these individuals have received, helping them to find stable residency, encouraging them to either work or actively look for employment, and continue to participate in therapy or other necessary medical treatments. However, even with such a high number of individuals in need of medical intervention due to psychological illnesses, only a small percentage of those suffering qualify for involuntary treatment programs.

Due to Governor Chris Christie’s advocacy for the program, involuntary outpatient commitment has been extended to all of New Jersey’s counties, making the program available statewide. The Christie administration has been making a number of positive changes for the state of New Jersey in terms of both mental health as well as addiction treatment. In addition to signing involuntary outpatient commitment into effect statewide, Governor Christie has also put together a task force focused on reducing or eliminating the current opiate and heroin epidemic that has been ravaging New Jersey just as much as it has every other state in the US. With involuntary outpatient commitment in effect, addicts who pose a threat to themselves or others are able to receive necessary treatments even in instances where they don’t voluntarily enter a treatment program, but while allowing them to continue living at home under close supervision.

Learn About Addiction Recovery Treatments Today

If you or someone you love is suffering from chemical dependency and would benefit from addiction treatment, call Drug Treatment Center Finder. Our team of recovery specialists has helped innumerable addicts find their way back to sobriety, health, and fulfillment through addiction recovery. Let us do the same for you today.