According to the dictionary, the word marchman means “a person living on the border territories.” At least in some vague metaphorical sense, one could see how that description applies to someone struggling with addiction, who is living on the outskirts of our reality, technically “here” but largely lost in their own world of substance abuse.
But the Marchman Act is actually named after a specific person, and quite a colorful character at that. It’s the reverend Hal S. Marchman, who is known for the many years he spent as a chaplain for NASCAR as well as for his work in advocating for people who struggle with substance abuse.
Like many of the most admirable crusaders in the fight against addiction, Marchman drew inspiration from his own struggle with the disease. A book published about Marchman’s life, Shalom and Amen: The Life and Work of Hal Marchman, the Racers’ Preacher, itself gets its name from Marchman’s trademark ending to his prayers, which showcases his inclusivity and open-heartedness in its incorporation of both traditionally Christian and traditionally Jewish language.
According to Shalom, Marchman described himself as a “drunk in recovery” who became a role model for others and had over six decades of sobriety under his belt by the time he died in 2009. As an ahead-of-his-time advocate for “the community that lives on the streets,” Marchman also established various church programs and community treatment centers for alcoholics and drug addicts as well as his own Daytona Beach rehabilitation program, where his direct counsel helped inspire thousands in their recoveries.
That isn’t Marchman’s only legacy, though; his alma mater Stetson University has also named the Hal S. Marchman Program for Civic and Social Responsibility after the reverend. The school is admiring of his commitment to “bettering the lives of the marginalized and worked to help those with chemical dependencies and others who tend to be forgotten by society at large,” and names his life, work, and values inspirational.
And then, of course, there’s the Marchman Act. From 1970 until 1993, Florida law actually had two separate statutes dealing with involuntary commitment, one that covered incapacitation related to alcohol abuse and another one that dealt with abuse of other drugs.
But given how often alcohol and drug abuse co-occur, and the potential for confusion due to slight differences in the terms of involuntary admission under each of the two laws, state legislator Steven Wise wrote a new statute that would apply in both circumstances to add some clarity to the proceedings.
Given Hal S. Marchman’s tireless advocacy for those struggling with addiction, he was an obvious choice to be honored as the law’s namesake, and given the many people that the Marchman Act has and will continue to help over the years, it’s a fitting honor and remembrance.
Since then, the Marchman Act has been altered slightly but remained fundamentally intact in providing a way that concerned loved ones can court-order involuntary commitment for someone who is incapacitated due to their substance use provided that certain conditions are met.
And while ordering a loved one to get addiction treatment against their will is certainly never something to be taken lightly, Hal S. Marchman’s own story of recovery from addiction and the many he helped inspire remind us why it could be worth the struggle. With the right treatment, someone can be brought back from addiction’s dismal border territories and back into a life filled with hope and light. If you would like to learn more about how our skilled intervention counselors can guide you through the process of filing a Marchman Act petition, feel free to call us today at 833-497-3808.