Getting treatment for addiction can be complicated. Finding the right recovery program, dealing with insurance coverage and committing to a plan is a process, and that’s after overcoming the hurdle of making the initial decision to get help. Unfortunately, for those fighting addiction while in jail or going through legal proceedings, the process can be even more complex.
Jail time may lead to a period of sobriety for a person with addiction, but forced abstinence is not the same as treatment, and underlying issues surrounding addiction still remain upon release. Fortunately, many courts and jail systems are beginning to realize the benefits of treating addiction as a medical disease, and integration between treatment and sentencing is becoming more common.
It’s important to know your rights and options for treatment if you’re facing addiction and legal issues at the same time. Court proceedings and mandates can get in the way of obtaining treatment, but seeking recovery is just as important as serving your time.
We talked to Sara Bono, a former criminal defense attorney who now works with Michael’s House and other Foundations Recovery Network programs, about some of the most common questions she receives from people dealing with legal issues who want to get treatment. While it can certainly present unique challenges, treatment programs like Michael’s House can help you navigate the path through legal issues and get you the help you need when you need it.
Common Questions About Legal Issues, Jail and Treatment
What if the court says I can’t leave the state?
Bono recommends that treatment facilities work with your attorney if you have a court mandate to stay in your state due to bond conditions, parole or probation. The admissions department can fill out travel requests and ask permission from the court or probation department for you to go out of state for treatment.
“We can work with your attorney and provide all the necessary documentation to get permission,” explains Bono.
What about alcohol or drug testing required by the court?
Michael’s House can accommodate these testing requirements, including random drug tests, breathalyzer tests and electronic monitoring devices on patients.
“We can help provide any documentation required by the court while you are in treatment,” says Bono. “Different courts have different reporting requirements, such as a weekly progress report, which we can accommodate.”
Communication between all parties is key, and treatment facilities like Michael’s House are equipped to keep everyone in the loop so you can meet legal requirements while getting help.
I don’t want to seek treatment until after my court date.
While it can be complicated to plan treatment around court dates, Bono recommends starting the process as soon as possible. Fortunately, treatment centers can work with you to find the best time to make that happen.
“We can also work with your attorney to try to move the court date, perhaps pushing it back so you can go to treatment beforehand,” explains Bono.
I want to postpone treatment so I can go to court first.
While going to court first may seem like the best thing to do, you’ll likely be put on bond conditions that prohibit you from drinking or using drugs while you await your court date. Surprisingly, a period of court-mandated sobriety could actually prevent you from meeting your insurance plan’s medical necessity conditions for covering treatment. As Bono recalls in one example of this,
“By the time [the prospective patient] contacted me, he hadn’t drank in five days. His insurance can turn around and say he’s not appropriate for residential treatment, but he clearly has a problem. He’s on his third drunk driving charge.”
Make sure you know all the facts and talk with your attorney about your options before making a decision about when to go to treatment.
I’m in jail, but I want treatment.
“This situation can be somewhat complicated”, says Bono, “but not unmanageable.”
While each state’s criminal justice system is set up differently, one thing Bono has noticed is the need for proper communication between the facility, the attorney and the court to ensure all conditions of parole or probation are fulfilled properly while you’re in treatment. For instance, you may be required to complete a specific type of program as part of your parole, so it’s important for the facility to know such requirements before moving forward.
Whatever situation you’re in, it’s important that you know what the court is asking you to do, understand your options and consider what’s best for your health and well-being. Seeking treatment for your addiction should be a top priority, and there are caring, supportive facilities like Michael’s House that are willing and able to help you navigate any legal issues you’re experiencing and get the help you need.
Our admission coordinators are trained and equipped to offer the best advice for people wondering what to do about getting treatment in the midst of legal issues. Give them a call today at 760-548-4032 or start a chat. All information is confidential and the call is free.
By Wesley Gallagher