Judge Mark Coven sees them every day in his Quincy courtroom.
Mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters asking a judge to force their loved ones into drug treatment programs out of fear that an addiction to alcohol or drugs has gotten so out of control it might turn deadly.
"It's heartbreaking to see what these families go through and how desperately afraid they are that their son or daughter may be the next one to overdose and die," said Coven
, the presiding judge at Quincy District Court.
The Quincy court ordered 464 people to be committed to Department of Public Health-funded treatment programs in budget year 2012, more than any of the other 71 district courts in the state, according to data from the department's Bureau of Substance Abuse Services.
Brockton ordered the second most so-called Section 35 civil commitments at 186, followed by Plymouth with 163 in fiscal year 2012, the most recent year for which data are available.
All eight district courts in Boston combined ordered 274 commitments.
It's not clear why the number of commitments was so much higher in Quincy than other district courts.
State, court and local officials said the scope of the heroin problem in the area, lack of a publicly-funded detox program nearby and a greater familiarity with the civil commitment process may be factors.
said the court has worked with local officials to get the word out that civil commitments are an option, especially in light of the region's heroin problem.
"There's a very significant and serious substance abuse problem on the South Shore that this court has been working very diligently to try to address," he
"We work very hard to let the community know we're here to help as best we can through these very difficult times."
The commitment process can be time consuming, and available treatment beds hard to come by.
said court officers have had to call Quincy police to administer the overdose-reversing drug Narcan on defendants being held at the courthouse.