It’s week four of sheltering-in-place. The days have long since blurred together. I’ve learned to deduce the time of day based on the contents of the cup I am slowly sipping from. The fact that it still holds coffee suggests it’s not the afternoon. Can having a “few” drinks to pass the time be considered “deviant” behavior? Possibly? Do I feel those pangs of shame that my criminology professors said would accompany breaking social norms? Not really. Perhaps I should since April is National Alcohol Awareness month which seeks to bring attention to unsafe or unhealthy drinking habits. However, it is not too unusual to use alcohol to cope with stressful and uncertain circumstances—for example, a pandemic.
On recent visits to three drug courts in three different states, the concept of moving away from a traditional cookie-cutter approach to treatment for participants came up. In several conversations, drug court teams discussed the idea of working with participants to identify and better understand their unique needs. From that inquiry and conversation, drug court teams could develop a treatment plan tailored to the participant’s unique individual history, circumstances, and needs.
It’s no secret that substance use disorders are linked to mental health issues. According to SAMHSA, over 7.9 million Americans experience co-morbidity (two or more conditions at a time) with a mental and substance use disorder.[i] Drug courts are designed to bridge the gap between substance use treatment and the criminal justice system, but mental health treatment is often an overlooked link. For participants in drug courts nationwide, between one-quarter and one-half are referred to a mental health treatment provider for a co-occurring mental disorder.[ii] Unless drug courts begin to properly address the mental health of the participants, they will not be resolving all underlying problems that led to criminal justice involvement for people with co-occurring disorders. Continue reading “Addressing Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders in Treatment Courts”
Addiction is complex. Addiction treatment is even more so. John Oliver, the host of Last Week Tonight, provides an intriguing glimpse into some of the complexities of this industry during his May 20, 2018, episode. I recently watched the episode, and even as someone whose work over the past five years has centered on drug treatment courts (including drug treatment), I was shocked. I found it hard to believe that the $34 billion treatment industry, an industry that includes over 14,500 drug treatment facilities in the United States, is effectively unregulated at the federal level with “no federal standards for counseling practices or rehab programs.”
Sixty-five million Americans have a criminal record. That is 65 million people living with barriers to employment, education, housing, and other key assets needed to build a life. To raise awareness about the limits placed on formerly incarcerated people re-entering society, the Justice Programs Office (JPO) has joined other organizations in declaring April 2018 “Second Chance Month.” During my time at JPO, my work has focused on substance use issues, and I have witnessed the added stigma given to those with substance use disorders in the criminal justice system. Labeling a person as an “addict” and a “criminal” effectively reduces their humanity and serves as justification for denying them support services. This stigma is something treatment courts actively work against. These specialized court programs are designed to recognize the dignity of every person and provide them with an opportunity for a second chance. Continue reading “Overcoming Stigma with Treatment Courts”
In tribal communities throughout the United States, alcohol-related crime and death are immense concerns for citizens. While exploring ideas on how to decrease the high rates of alcohol and substance use by Native American populations for National Drug Court Resource Center, I came across several programs that the Navajo Nation is implementing to combat drug and alcohol problems. In an effort to learn about these initiatives, I got in touch with and interviewed a member of the Judicial Branch of the Navajo Nation.