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When and How to Employ “Section 35”

Many of us have endured the excruciating situation in which a loved one is caught up in an addiction and we have very limited ability to protect them from themselves.  In most cases, this is where options like Intervention or resources like Al-Anon can be helpful tools.  When addictive behavior remains active and imminently life-threatening (a possibility of which we are all more aware lately in light of the surging rates of opioid overdose), a possible stopgap action is to seek to compel a period of involuntary alcohol/drug oriented hospitalization in a locked setting. 


Unlike “Section 12” procedures, which are more psychiatrically oriented and generally must involve licensed clinicians, the “Section 35” process is typically initiated by family members based on serious substance abuse-related danger to self or others.  The Massachusetts Bar Association recently developed a free Helpline program offering free legal assistance in the Section 35 process to friends and families of substance abusers.  The helpline number is:  (844) 843-6221.  For more information, click here.


Jeff Fortgang, PhD



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