Commitment of alcohol or substance abusers: Section 35


A section 35 is a civil commitment of a person that is having alcohol or substance abuse issues.  This is how it works.  There is a person who is abusing drugs or alcohol.  A family member, police officer, guardian or court official petitions the court to section the individual, which means to detain and send the abuser to a treatment facility.  The court has a doctor talk to the abuser and to give an opinion to the court about the severity of the abuser’s condition.  The court rules on whether the person should be detained for treatment. 

 Now an abuser can voluntary agree to be sectioned and go to a treatment center up to 30 days or an abuser could fight the petition.  If the drug or alcohol abuser agrees to voluntary go to treatment, and then the court will usually send that person to treatment.  If the abuser doesn’t want to be committed, the abuser is afforded a hearing. 

 In a hearing, the abuser has the right to be represented by a lawyer.  The court will hear from the doctor and usually the petitioner.  The lawyer is usually allowed to question the doctor.  In order to hold an abuser and force them to go into treatment, the court needs to find that the drugs or alcohol either substantially injure the abuser’s health, interferes with his social or economic functioning or has lost the power of self control over use of drugs or alcohol. 

 Now if after the hearing, the judge finds that “there is a likelihood of serious harm as a result of his alcoholism or substance abuse, it may order such person to be committed for a period not to exceed thirty days” (M.G.L Ch. 123 sec. 35). The person is usually then sent to Bridgewater for treatment and can’t be held for more than 30 days.  The state does encourage Bridgewater to allow people to voluntarily stay after the 30 days is up for treatment. 

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For more information:

http://www.mass.gov/legis/laws/mgl/123-35.htm

Institute of Health and Recovery

http://www.healthrecovery.org/about_us/history/section_35.asp

Men’s Addiction Treatment Center

http://www.helpline-online.com/helplinesearch.aspx?pageid=providerdetail&pid=2818944&pl=helpline

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  1. I have a very important question if you are married is your family members still able to (mom,dad,brothers,sisters,step parents)able y\to still section you?? I was section before the doctor at the court told the judge i didn’t cut the critria for protocall,she denied it. but my brother is a cop and purged his himself by saying i was a` danngere to society due to my eractic driving. the funny thing is i haventn'[t drove in in 5 years or had a licese. this all happened in 2008. but its all haooeneing all over again. i can feeel the signs. and the there threats. funny thing is honestly im doing a a hell of a lot better.:) please help

    • Yes, your family can still file a petition for a section even if you are married

  2. what if the abuser’s father lives in rhode island and works in mass…what can be done in this instance? the abuser used to live with the father but doesn’t

  3. What does a family do when a family member has been hospitialized in a medical induced coma to protect them from themself. They have a history of walking out of medical facilities and becoming compatitive. This is her fourth or fifth overdose and the hospital is planning on filing a chapter 35 on her. She will first be an inpatient at the hospital, section 13 I think and then go to a rehab unit. With her making poor decisions and now not able to do anything how are we able to cash her checks, pay her bills and maintain her home. Is there someone we should talk to??We tried the social workers at the hospitals but they havn’t returned any calls. Can the judge appoint a temporary guardian, how does this happen and does it cost anything. WE are also caring for her dissabled husband which his money is also in the same bank account with out his name on it and we are unable to access any funds for him for basic living.
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  5. Id like to see them try to section me!!! there are people all over the streets dying to get into detox or treatment and they go through fucking bullshit trying to get in now they think they can abduct people who dont want to go and inject them against their will with drugs? MASSACHUSETTS LAW ENFORCEMENT AND GOVERNMENT YOU ARE A BUNCH OF BITCH ASS PUNKS!!!

  6. I now the yaks pain of trying to get into a rehab theres just not enough rehabs available My question is do you have to be a family member to section 35 someone. My fiance is driving totaly smashed has tried to cut her rists drinks all day untill shes falling down drunk has beat up my son and many other harmful things to her self as well as her family and myself

    • even tho she is just your gf you can still section her.

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  8. Can I section 35 my alcoholic husband? He got a dui in MA (N. Attleboro) and has lost his license in MA and now RI but we live in and are residents of RI.
    He drinks up to a liter of vodka a day and ended up in hospital this week… police found him passed out face down at the airport, he doesn’t know how he got there. He is a danger to himself, myself and our 14mth old son. He gets aggressive towards both of us and has thrown me to the ground and I am also pregnant again. His domestic violence charge got dismissed but he still drinks and drinks and drinks…

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  13. I have a friend who was sectioned by her family. I understand she is somewhere in Boston. May I write to her??

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