Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, today released the following statement regarding the development of final opioid addiction prevention and treatment legislation:

“We are grateful for the House’s choice to prioritize public health and reject involuntary detention of individuals suffering from addiction. Now, we urge the Legislature to follow that wise approach in the final bill. One of the significant virtues of the opioid bill is that it generally recognizes addiction as a public health issue, not a problem to be solved with punishment. But mandating detention for addiction is medically dangerous and raises serious due process concerns. It would turn the public health approach on its head.

"It’s a mistake to think that locking up a person suffering from substance use disorder is ‘for their own good.’ In fact, involuntary commitment can be deadlier than doing nothing at all. In Massachusetts, individuals who have been recently released from incarceration are 120 times more likely to die of an overdose than the rest of the adult population. That risk of death is especially acute in the first month after release. This provision risks replicating these statistics by putting people in a position to undergo detoxification and then release, but with a reduced tolerance to their drug and a corresponding increase in their risk for overdose. If Massachusetts is serious about ending the opioid crisis, we need to invest in treatment, not coercion.

"Our Commonwealth should not lock people up without a court hearing, even under the guise of treatment. The mandatory detention provision takes away someone’s right to a court hearing before being detained. And by allowing a court hearing to be delayed for up to 72 hours, the bill would seemingly treat people who are not charged with crimes worse than criminal defendants, who generally have a right under the state constitution to be presented to a court within 24 hours.”