The following steps can be a useful guide to help build an integrated public health and public safety approach to address substance abuse disorders. These steps are based on a guide by Reclaiming Futures for judges, court administrators, government entities, community leaders, and interested citizens on how to build an integrated system (Anderegg et al., 2006).

The role of the judge in launching this first step is a powerful one. Judges are uniquely able to bring people to the table. The court provides a neutral environment in which key stakeholders can work together.

While the judge is the senior partner at the table, a collaborative approach is beneficial. There should be a balance in representation among law enforcement, prosecution, and defense interests and a broad array of treatment agencies, social service agencies, and a variety of community resources at the table.

The scope of the problem of alcohol and other drugs should be assessed, including the impact of the problem in the justice system, existing resources, and gaps in services.

Develop and maintain ongoing mechanisms to educate and train professionals in the integrated system and the broader community about alcohol and other drug problems and effective approaches to dealing with these problems. The Conference of Chief Justices has passed unanimous resolutions on problem-solving courts, including a resolution supporting judicial education on substance abuse. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) established Criminal Justice Drug Abuse Treatment Studies (CJ-DATS) as a cooperative research program to explore the issues related to the complex system of offender treatment services. Results from the CJ-DATS National Criminal Justice Treatment Practices survey provides data on the nature of programs and services provided to adults and juveniles involved in the justice system.

Research indicates that cross training of justice, treatment, and social services staff is important to increase knowledge and implementation of evidence-based practices in the justice system. Topics to consider for training include:

  • A broad overview of how each system works
  • Common ground shared by substance abuse treatment and justice systems
  • Education on the language of the systems
  • Clarification of system roles and personnel roles within each system
  • Ways in which the two systems can communicate, work together, and manage conflicts
  • Cultural competence issues
  • Confidentiality requirements
  • Effective case management for the individual
  • Rationales for intermediate sanctions programs for drug offenders
  • Eligibility requirements for intermediate sanctions programs and how they can be applied to individual cases
  • Reporting requirements and agreements
  • Pharmacotherapy
Note: Useful materials for staff training on alcohol and other drug problems and treatment and justice systems can be found in the list of Resources at the end of this section.

With limited resources in the treatment and justice systems, the community can play an important role in implementing an integrated system. Churches, businesses, and police among other community members can provide important services. For example, a faith community can provide transportation or child care for people in treatment. Another example is Chambers of Commerce providing jobs to individuals re-entering the community after prison or inpatient treatment.

1 Invite Key Stakeholders

2 Ensure Broad Representation of All Interests

3 Identify Needs

4 Provide Education and Training

5 Count on the Community

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