Special Committee on Section 35 & Drug Addiction

Senate President Murray announced the creation of a Special Committee on drug addiction issues with a particular focus on “Section 35” which pertains to involuntary commitments of persons with substance abuse issues to treatment.  I look forward to serving on the committee — Massachusetts faces an epidemic of substance abuse  and I’ve long had a professional interest in the issue.

The press release appears below:

Contact: Laura Oggeri  617-722-1500
January 16, 2014

Senate to Appoint Special Committee on Section 35

BOSTON – In response to rising levels of drug addiction, the Senate on Thursday will pass an order to create a special committee to study the application of Section 35 and drug addiction treatment options in the Commonwealth.

According to Trust for America’s Health, the number of drug overdose deaths in Massachusetts has increased by 47 percent since 1999.

“Addiction is a very serious and often fatal problem that affects families in every community from every socio-economic background,” Senate President Therese Murray said. “Sadly, Section 35 often serves as a revolving door for drug addicts with many falling back to their old ways because meaningful treatment has not been available. We need to take a look at what treatment options are available in all regions of the state, if there is a need for change and how we fill that need. The costs of drug addiction are high, both to families and the economy, and we have experienced a significant impact on public safety. This special committee has been tasked with bringing together experts from every side of this issue to look at the big picture of drug abuse and I look forward to their recommendations.”

The special committee will be chaired by Senator Jennifer L. Flanagan. Other assigned members include Senate Chair of the Joint Committee of the Judiciary William N. Brownsberger, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government Linda Dorcena Forry, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health John F. Keenan, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse Joan B. Lovely and Ranking Member on the Senate Committee on Ways and Means Senator Richard J. Ross.

Section 35 of Chapter 123 of the General Laws allows the courts to commit an individual whose alcohol or drug addiction puts themselves or others at risk to inpatient substance abuse treatment for a period of up to 90 days. If no beds are available at a licensed treatment facility, men are sent to the correctional facility at Bridgewater and women are sent to the correctional facility in Framingham. The Women’s Addiction Treatment Center in New Bedford and the Men’s Addiction Treatment Center in Brockton also provide treatment for individuals committed under Section 35.




Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

3 replies on “Special Committee on Section 35 & Drug Addiction”

  1. Please note the public health issues in this discussion. Drug addiction should be considered an illness to be treated, not a crime. We are imprisoning too many persons, and not giving them the treatment needed, in many cases.

    We should consider following the lead of Oregon and Colorado to legalize
    marijuana. We should impose more of a tax on alcohol to help pay for more drug
    treatment centers, and train more nurse’s aides supervised by a nurse practitioner, to work specifically in local health centers to administer the program. This step would give employment where needed, and spread the word about the availability of treatment.

    A constituent: Alice E. Kidder, Watertown

  2. I’m very concerned that people who are civilly committed are sent to prison for drug and alcohol problems. This has been going on for years and is totally inappropriate because prisons are punitive institutions by design. I hope that the committee will address this problem as part of a comprehensive approach to improve access to drug and alcohol treatment, an approach that could help many people and provide a way to step back from sending so many people to prison. The Governor of Vermont inspired me by devoting his “state of the state” speech to the issues of drugs and over-incarceration. I look forward to updates from you on the committee’s work.

    Rachel Roth, Arlington

  3. Rachel/Alice, this is exactly the page I am on: We need to provide more and higher quality voluntary treatment; less punishment for what is, I agree, a public health problem. I also feel we are overusing coercion to bring people into treatment — coercion reduces accountability for quality in the treatment system.

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