How Can You Force Someone to Go to Rehab?

addict refusing to seek treatment

The statistics are startling. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports only about 2.6 million of the 24 million people who need substance abuse treatment in the U.S. receive services. Fatal drug overdoses almost tripled between 1999 and 2014, and over 95,000 people die each year because of alcohol-related causes.

Most state laws allow parents to force their children under age 18 to attend drug rehab, even against the child’s wishes. However, when people over age 18 refuse to seek treatment, it is more challenging to get them the help they need.

State lawmakers, families, and communities recognize that getting individuals the treatment they need and deserve is the key to saving lives. To this end, many states have enacted involuntary commitment laws applicable to those over age 18. These laws allow loved ones to pursue emergency interventions when they believe substance abuse or mental illness is causing a person to be a danger to themselves or others.

While the name of the law varies from state to state, involuntary commitment laws all have the same intent – to save lives.

Missouri Civil Involuntary Detention

Missouri’s involuntary commitment law, entitled Civil Involuntary Detention, became law under Missouri Statutes Chapter 632 RSMo which permits, “involuntary treatment under certain conditions with appropriate due process” for psychiatric services and substance abuse services. Kansas also has involuntary commitment statutes.

Lawmakers instituted the statutes to protect people suffering from mental illness or substance use disorders who may be incapable of making healthy decisions regarding their living conditions, nutrition, and medical care. Often, involuntary detention protects individuals from engaging in risky behavior that could harm themselves or others.

Who Can Request a Civil Involuntary Detention?

Any concerned adult can apply for the detention, evaluation, and treatment of a person they fear poses a threat because of a mental health or substance abuse disorder. They must apply in the probate division of the circuit court in the jurisdiction where the mentally ill or addicted person lives.

Law enforcement personnel may detain any person they feel is a danger to themselves or others and transport them for evaluation to a treatment facility recognized by the Department of Mental Health to provide civil involuntary detention services.

A mental health professional such as a psychiatrist, licensed physician, psychiatric resident, psychologist, nurse or social worker, licensed professional counselor, or a qualified addiction specialist assess the individual and makes a recommendation regarding any treatment needs.

The treatment facility holds the person up to 96 hours for the initial assessment, and may then request a formal court hearing if they determine further detention and treatment are necessary.

During the hearing, the person being evaluated for involuntary commitment is entitled to legal representation. If they cannot pay for an attorney, the court will appoint one. After lawyers present the evidence, the judge decides whether commitment is in the person’s best interest.

The judge may order continued detention for 21 days for evaluation and treatment. The judge may extend this period for an additional 90 days, up to one year.

What You Can Do in Emergency Situations

If an emergency arises and you need immediate help, you can do any of the following.

  • Take the person to the emergency room of a hospital that treats people with mental and substance use disorders.
  • If the person currently has a mental health treatment provider, contact them for guidance.
  • Call 911, the police, or the sheriff’s department for help. As noted above, the statute allows law enforcement officers to transport any person deemed to be a threat to a facility for detention and evaluation.

A person does not have to be homicidal or suicidal to pose an imminent threat. If they verbally threaten to do harm or act in a way that causes you to be fearful they will do harm, reach out for help.

Another valuable resource is the Missouri Access Crisis Intervention (ACI) Hotline, which is available 24/7. Hotline staff provides free behavioral health crisis services for young people and adults. Trained staff evaluate the situation and assist with the indicated course of action.

The goal of ACI is to obtain needed services for individuals in crisis while avoiding unnecessary hospitalizations or other detentions.

If the situation is not an immediate crisis but you feel the person may harm themselves or others because of a mental illness or substance use disorder and they refuse to seek treatment, you can petition the Probate Court for a civil involuntary detention order.

The Missouri Department of Mental Health provides a Civil Involuntary Detention Consumer Information Manual that further explains how involuntary detention works.

Court Ordered Alcohol and Drug Rehab Centers

A judge may sentence individuals who have been arrested because they committed a crime under the influence of drugs or alcohol to a court-ordered treatment program. According to a State of Missouri survey, alcohol use was a factor in the arrest of approximately 55 percent of incarcerated males aged 18 and over. Judges often order mandatory treatment programs in these cases.

The Missouri Department of Mental Health provides extensive information about programs, services, and where to get help for alcohol and drug addiction, and for mental illness.

Seeking Professional Help

Midwest Recovery Centers uses an extended care treatment model that provides a safe, transformative, client-centered, and cost-effective recovery process from alcohol and drug use. Grounded in a successful 12-step model, we offer individual, group, and family counseling and other proven therapeutic approaches.

Highly trained clinical staff monitors all phases of treatment and adjusts the program depending on each individual’s treatment needs. We expect clients to remain engaged in their treatment and personal 12-step recovery process throughout the program.

After completion of inpatient treatment, we continue to provide support to program alumni and families through our aftercare and family programs. Contact Midwest Recovery Centers today to start your recovery.


Reviewed and Assessed by
Taylor Brown, B.A.Com., MAADC II
Tim Coleman, M. of Ed.

Staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Click or Call Today! 844-990-1578

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