Kimberly Wright did not want her daughter to die from drugs. The Casey’s Law advocate’s daughter was drinking whiskey, smoking marijuana and cigarettes as a teenager. By the time she turned 25, she was taking Xanax and injecting heroin.
Wright ended up forcing her daughter to undergo mandatory drug treatment through a law known as Casey’s Law. Now Wright’s daughter has been in drug recovery for six years.
“She is doing excellent,” she said.
Casey’s Law, also known as the Matthew Casey Wethington Act for Substance Abuse Intervention, allows family and friends of a drug or alcohol abuse victim to petition a court to mandate drug treatment for the victim. The law is named after Casey Wethington, who died of a heroin overdose at age 23. Wethington was from the Northern Kentucky area.
His family members tried to get him into treatment but could not do so because he was an adult.
On Wednesday, Wright co-led two sessions at Nolin Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation in Elizabethtown to educate people about the law, which isn’t used much in Hardin County.
Jenny Oldham, Hardin County attorney, said there had been zero petitions filed this year.
“We’ve had 12 people come in and ask and leave,” she said.
Wright said the law isn’t a guarantee the drug abuse victim will get better but it’s a hopeful option.
“It’s not a magic bullet,” she said.
The law has numerous steps before treatment is mandated, including filing a petition, attending a hearing and having the alleged drug abuse victim undergo evaluation. The judge also must approve the treatment, Wright said.
The petition, which can be filed by a family member or friend and obtained at the Hardin County Attorney’s Office, includes a section where the petitioner is asked provide evidence of drug abuse. Wright said this includes more than just the substances used.
“Loss of job. Loss of their house. Their hygiene. Are they getting arrested?” Wright said. “Anything that you can think of to let this judge know that there’s an issue going on here, I want you to write it there.”
Other sections include if the drug abuse victim, also known as the respondent, is a danger to themselves or others and the length of treatment.
The court reviews the allegations in the petition and a judge then examines the petitioner under oath. If a judge finds there is probable cause to mandate drug treatment, a closed hearing is set and the respondent is notified. The petitioner then must find two qualified mental health experts to evaluate their family member or friend, one of whom must be a physician, prior to the hearing.
At the hearing, a judge determines if the drug abuse victim will benefit from treatment. Wright recommended already having the desired treatment facilities located prior to the hearing.
Once treatment is mandated, the petitioner assumes additional responsibilities, such as transporting the drug abuse victim to treatment, informing the court if the victim leaves treatment and costs.
“This is much cheaper than paying for a funeral,” she said.
In 2017, the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy reported that 1,565 people died in Kentucky from drug overdoses.
More information about the law and additional resources can be found at caseyslaw.org.
Trey Crumbie can be reached at 270-505-1747 or email@example.com.