Pennsylvania lawmaker wants involuntary treatment for overdose victims

A Pennsylvania lawmaker wants overdose victims to be subjected to involuntary addiction treatment.

State Rep. Matthew Baker, R-Bradford, is seeking co-sponsors for potential legislation that would include drug overdoses in the “clear and present danger” section of the state’s Mental Health Procedures Act.

Baker said in a memo Friday that he was contacted by a constituent this past week about an incident in which an overdose victim was treated and immediately released:

I’m sure you have experienced similar constituent inquiries to the one that I heard of this week, where the patient had rendered himself in need of medical attention due to a drug overdose, but upon being stabilized medically, was free to leave without addressing the underlying concerns. It is my intent to provide enough time for evaluation of the person’s needs for either mental health or addiction treatment.

Under state law, a person can be ordered to undergo involuntary mental health treatment if he or she presents a clear and present danger to themselves or others, such as if they have threatened to commit suicide or harm another person.

That treatment can vary between five days and 6 months, depending on several circumstances, such as an individual’s willingness to participate in voluntary treatment and the availability of outpatient placement.

“I believe we should start the conversation in earnest about what is to be done after the person is rescued from death due to overdose,” Baker said in his memo.

Baker is among a number of lawmakers who have pushed for new ways to address the state’s significant opioid epidemic.

One of the ways law enforcement agencies have been treating overdose victims is by administering the life-saving drug Naloxone, which blocks the effects of opioids.

Gov. Tom Wolf recently announced a proposed $10 million budget item to provide Naloxone to agencies across the state.

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