Casey's Law

What is Casey’s Law?

The Matthew Casey Wethington Act for Substance Abuse Intervention is named for Matthew Casey Wethington, who died in 2002 from a heroin overdose at the age of 23. Casey was an energetic young man who enjoyed life until it was taken by drugs. Casey never intended to become addicted to drugs when he used the first time. What he did not realize was that his using would progress from abusing to dependence and then to the disease of addiction. Although his parents tried to get him help, there was no law that could force someone into treatment because he was an adult. After Casey’s death his parents lobbied for a change. “Casey’s Law” passed on April 9, 2004, and took effect July 13, 2004.

What does this law provide?

The Matthew Casey Wethington Act provides a means of intervening with someone who is unable to recognize his or her need for treatment due to their impairment. This law allows parents, relatives and/or friends to petition the court for treatment on behalf of the substance abuse-impaired person.

HB 362  signed by Governor Andy Beshear, in 2022,  strengthens the existing law by adding in two provisions.  It establishes that health care professionals performing examinations, may be subject to subpoena for cross examination during a hearing concerning the court-ordered treatment.  It also establishes that an order of treatment shall be issued upon finding a proof beyond reasonable doubt.

Why is this law needed?

Denial and distorted thinking impedes a person’s ability to make a rational decision. The “bottom” for many is death. Addiction is a progressive, life-threatening disease. The best hope of survival for a person who is substance abuse impaired is intervention. Studies show that involuntary treatment can be just as successful as voluntary treatment. Most individuals who are substance abuse-impaired receive court-ordered treatment only after they have become arrested for a crime while under the influence of a substance. Drugs and crime often go hand-in-hand because people who are substance abuse impaired are forced by their disease to resort to any means necessary to procure their drug. Court-ordered treatment can be effective regardless of who initiates it. Not all people who are substance abuse impaired are arrested or, in the event that they are, may not receive the necessary treatment.

What is the process to use Casey’s Law?

The following steps must be taken in order to involuntarily commit someone to treatment:

  • Obtain a copy of the petition from the District Court clerk’s office by requesting Form 700A – the Verified Petition for Involuntary Treatment of Alcohol/Drug Abuse.
  • A spouse, relative, friend or guardian of the substance abuse-impaired person completes the petition and files it with the District Court clerk.
  • The court reviews the allegations in the petition and examines the petitioner under oath.
  • The court determines whether there is probable cause to order treatment for the person named in the petition (the respondent).
  • If probable cause is established a judge appoints an attorney to represent the respondent, order the respondent to be evaluated, and schedule a hearing within 14 days.
  • The respondent is notified of the date and purpose of the hearing.
  • The respondent is evaluated by two qualified health professionals, at least one of whom is a physician, to determine if the respondent could benefit from treatment.
  • If the judge finds the respondent should undergo treatment, the court shall order treatment from 60 days up to 360 days, depending upon the request in the petition and the result of the evaluation. Treatment options vary depending upon each individual’s circumstances and can range from detoxification to intensive treatment through recovery.

Casey's Law Short Documentary

This powerful story reveals why this Kentucky law is so vital in giving many hope to recover. The documentary features interviews with people who have been devastated from this illness, as well as judges, mental health workers, and family members who can shed light on the disease of addiction and the epidemic that is ravaging Kentucky.