News Article Details

Training offered for mental health, substance abuse treatment laws

Messenger-Inquirer - 8/28/2017

Aug. 28--Care providers, advocates and members of the justice system in Daviess County are being invited to receive training on two complex laws designed to help families gain help for loved ones unable or unwilling to help themselves.

The Daviess County Attorney's Office is hosting a training event in conjunction with a panel of experts with the court system, public advocacy and health sector Sept. 14 at Owensboro Health Regional Hospital auditorium to explain issues of guardianship and mandatory medical assistance.

The training will help the numerous people involved in the complex system of court mandated mental health or substance abuse treatment understand the complexities and updates to the 202A and 202B procedures, as well as Casey's and Tim's Laws.

Daviess County District Court Judge Lisa Jones said she and other organizers of the session felt it was important to give attention to the law due to growing demands for help and the complexity of the process.

"It's not just filing a piece of paper and the judge giving you what you want," Jones said. "There are several different routes to consider when a family comes to the court for help with many steps afterward depending on which process applies. Family's need help through this and not a lot of have that much experience."

When a family is seeking help for a person who might not be able to control their actions, they can seek court granted legal guardianship over an adult. In some cases, a procedure referred to as 202a applies to involuntary mental health treatment in a facility. A similar process known as 202b applies to people with diminished capacities.

On top of these more regularly used law's, families and courts are learning to deal with Casey's and Tim's Law.

Casey's Law was passed in 2004 and advocated by Charlotte Wethington after the death of her son, Matthew Casey Wethington, from a heroin overdose. The law gives families the ability to petition the court for mandatory treatment of a loved one after proving they need care, the person has had their own testimony, an appropriate facility has been found and the family has proved they will be able to pay for the treatment.

Jones said the law has received a lot of attention lately from families in need, but can be hard to utilize due to the burden on the family to be the driving force for the petition.

"I think the opioid epidemic has brought a lot of attention to this wish many people coming to the county attorney's office," Jones said. " Some are having Casey's law explained to them, but most of them probably didn't even know it existed. They just didn't know where else to turn."

Jones said she has only seen Casey's Law used once in Daviess County and has never seen Tim's Law in use. Due to the state's growing issues with substance abuse and mental health issues, Jones said those circumstances will probably change.

Tim's Law passed in March of this year after state lawmakers voted to override a veto from Gov. Matt Bevin. The law was named after Tim Morton, a man who suffered from mental health issues and spent most of his life homeless in Lexington or in Eastern State Hospital before finally succumbing to long ignored health conditions.

The namesake law was designed in part to assist families in helping secure monitoring and in-home treatment for people like Morton who have been involuntarily committed to hospitals at least twice but continue to refuse medical treatment.

Claud Porter, Daviess County attorney, said the relative newness of the law and need for assistance from health professionals adds complications to the court's ability to carry it out.

"Tim's Law requires funding for trained mental health professionals we haven't received yet and the statute says we aren't required to process the law until we have the resources," Porter said. "I would guess it will take some time. We've had people ask to help us set up a fund and we do have access to resources, but we are trying partner with the courts and the rest of the community to figure out how to best use them."

The session scheduled for 1 to 4 p.m. will be led by Dr. Susan Vaught from the Western State Hospital, Damon Preston of the Department of Public Advocacy, Jones, Porter and Kyle Smith with the county attorney's office.

The training can be counted toward 2.75 hours of general Continuing Legal Education credits for qualified participants.

Jacob Dick, 270-228-2837, jdick@messenger-inquirer.com,Twitter: @jdickjournalism

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(c)2017 the Messenger-Inquirer (Owensboro, Ky.)

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