Section 35 pilot program in Norfolk County to target opioid addiction

Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016

The Massachusetts Bar Association has launched a free legal assistance pilot program in Norfolk County to help county residents who are seeking court-ordered inpatient treatment for a family member or friend struggling with opioid addiction. The program, spearheaded by MBA President Robert W. Harnais, offers assistance with a state law, known as "Section 35" (Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 123, Section 35), which permits individuals to petition the courts to involuntarily commit substance abusers to an inpatient treatment program when their alcohol or drug use puts themselves or others at risk.

Under the program, Norfolk County residents can contact the MBA's Section 35 Helpline, available toll-free at (844) 843-6221, or via helpus@massbar.org, where they will be put in touch with volunteer lawyers, who will assist them pro bono (for free) with their Section 35 petitions, up to and including going to court. The Section 35 Helpline, the first of its kind in the commonwealth, is currently being run as a pilot program, and pro bono lawyers are only available to Norfolk County residents.