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Friday, October 29, 2010

The Jennifer Act

Jennifer Reynolds was a heroin addict who died at the age of 29. In 2002 her mother, Sharon Blair, after learning of her daughter's addiction began writing the Jennifer Act, a controversial bill which has procedures for the involuntary commitment of a person due to alcohol or drug abuse. Blair finished the bill shortly after her daughter's death Jan. 15, 2009. "Parents feel helpless when their kids are addicted to drugs," Blair said. "They are paralyzed by fear, and don't know what to do." Parents are often unable to convince or push their child to seek treatment and this new bill will give parents a tool to aid them in the process. "The Jennifer Act is a tool that can help parents provide their child with the help he or she needs," she said. "As things are now, there's nothing a parent can do unless the child breaks the law."

If the new bill gets approved and passed parents will have the ability to go to the courthouse and file a petition for the immediate commitment of their child into a drug treatment facility. These treatment facilities will be locked down so that those court-ordered addicts cannot just leave when they please, if they do, then local authorities will pick them up and bring them back to treatment. "If you have an elderly family member with dementia, you can obtain power of attorney over them because they can no longer make rational decisions," she said. "The Jennifer Act is similar, in the sense that it gives parents the power to make decisions about what is best for a child because the child is not in his or her right mind due to drug addiction."

The Jennifer Act would force the Department of Correction and county jails to provide treatment options to everyone with addictions; both faith-based treatment and secular treatment will be offered. The offenders would have their choice between faith-based treatment and secular treatment. "If offenders don't receive treatment for the root cause of their problem, we end up arresting and re-arresting them," Blair said. "Most of them never get a chance to get treatment outside the prison system, because they are too poor to pay for it. If we can successfully rehab them while they're in jail, we are not only saving their lives, but saving taxpayers a lot of money."

If the bill is passed it will certainly allow more addicts to see what treatment is about, but, an addict has to want sobriety for himself. Forcing adult children into treatment may cause addicts to stay as far away from their family as possible. Relapse rates will probably be higher than normal because if a person is not 100 percent committed to surrendering and following a path of recovery they will just jump through the hoops of treatment and use as soon as they are released after convincing the doctors that they are ready for society again. It will be interesting to see the results of the Jennifer Act, if it is put into action.

Herald-Times, Bloomington, Ind

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