- Report Published -
|The Status and Effectiveness of Drug Offender Screening, Assessment, and Treatment|
|Interagency Drug Offender Screening and Assessment Committee|
|Pursuant to legislation passed by the General Assembly during its 1998 and 1999 sessions, many adult and juvenile offenders must undergo screening and assessment for substance abuse problems. The screening and assessment provisions defined in §§ 16.1-273, 18.2-251.01, 19.2-299 and 19.2-299.2 of the Code of Virginia target all felons convicted in circuit court, Class 1 misdemeanor drug offenders ordered to supervision or programming, and juvenile offenders adjudicated for a felony, a Class 1 or 2 drug-related misdemeanor, a drug-related charge that is the juvenile's first offense or any other act for which the juvenile is ordered to undergo a social history investigation. Under the new law, offenders who commit their crimes on or after January 1, 2000, must undergo a substance abuse screening. If the initial screening reveals key characteristics or behaviors likely related to drug use or alcohol abuse, a comprehensive substance abuse assessment must be administered. The purpose of this legislation is to reduce substance abuse and criminal behavior among offenders by enhancing the identification of substance-abusing offenders and their treatment needs and by improving the delivery of substance abuse treatment services within the criminal justice system.|
The Interagency Drug Offender Screening and Assessment Committee was created in 1999 under § 2.1-51.18:3 to oversee the screening and assessment provisions contained in the Code of Virginia. Since its inception in 1999, the Interagency Committee has been active in the implementation and administration of the screening and assessment program. Initially, the Interagency Committee met weekly to discuss implementation plans for this ambitious new program. The Interagency Committee continues to meet at least monthly. The following is a summary of the Interagency Committee's activities during 1999 and 2000:
• Directed pilot testing in 36 Department of Corrections' probation and parole districts, local Alcohol Safety Action Program agencies, local community-based probation programs, pretrial services programs and Department of Juvenile Justice court service units from July through December 1999,
• Oversaw the expansion of the substance abuse screening and assessment program from pilot sites to implementation statewide in January 2000,
• Conducted numerous informational presentations for judges, prosecutors, public defenders and defense attorneys regarding the screening and assessment program,
• Organized and facilitated training seminars on the utilization of the state-approved screening and assessment instruments,
• Collaborated with agencies to develop screening and assessment protocols and policies,
• Developed confidentiality protocols and facilitated confidentiality training,
• Guided development and enhancement of interagency Memorandums of Agreement (MOAs) and Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs),
• Promoted the development/enhancement of contracts with private treatment providers,
• Began plans for automation of screening and assessment components,
• Integrated the screening and assessment program with the Substance Abuse Reduction Effort (SABRE), and
• Provided on-going assistance to agencies engaged in screening and assessment activities.
The agencies comprising the Interagency Committee have vigorously trained personnel in the administration of the state-approved screening and assessment instruments, including screening and assessment protocols and confidentiality regulations. To provide a broad-based understanding of federal confidentiality regulations pertaining to substance abuse assessment and treatment information, the Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services, in conjunction with the Interagency Committee, sponsored two confidentiality workshops conducted by the Legal Action Center for a total of 188 staff across agencies. Staff training has focused largely on what is known as ''training the trainers." This process targets key personnel for intensive instruction so that these individuals can train others to perform the screening and assessment tasks. To support the screening and assessment program, the General Assembly authorized specialized staff positions, known as certified substance abuse counselors, for the Department of Corrections and Department of Juvenile Justice and these agencies have actively recruited and hired individuals to fill these positions. Activities related to the training and hiring of staff through November 30, 2000, are summarized in Figure 1.
Data reported for the first ten months of statewide implementation of the program reveal that a substantial portion of offenders entering the criminal justice system in Virginia have substance abuse problems related to drugs or alcohol. For over half (51.8%) of adult felons, the screening performed by a Department of Corrections probation officer indicated the need for a thorough assessment. Of the adult felons assessed, 85.5% were found to be in need of treatment services beyond substance abuse education programming. Experience to date has shown that local Alcohol Safety Action Programs have received few screening orders or referrals for misdemeanant offenders sentenced in Virginia's general district courts. Local community-based probation programs, which have handled the bulk of adult misdemeanants subject to screening and assessment provisions, report that 42.0% of offenders in this group have required subsequent assessment, and more than two-thirds of those assessed need treatment services more extensive than substance abuse education. Data compiled by the Department of Juvenile Justice suggests that as many as one in five (20.0%) of juvenile offenders must have substance abuse assessments. These early program results are summarized in Figure 2.
Virginia's screening and assessment program became effective statewide on January 1, 2000, but the Interagency Committee's work is far from complete. Ensuring the quality of the screening and assessment process is an important goal of the Interagency Committee. Oversight is an ongoing activity. In addition, the Interagency Committee will continue to provide training workshops, educational seminars and informational presentations for agency staff, judges, Commonwealth's attorneys and defense attorneys. In an effort to improve the delivery of treatment services within the criminal justice system, the Interagency Committee is considering the development of a treatment/sentencing matrix as an additional tool for judges and correctional agencies. The matrix, a purely advisory tool, could provide judges and agencies with information regarding treatment services suitable for a defendant given the nature and severity of his addiction and the public safety objectives of the Commonwealth. In the upcoming biennium, the Interagency Committee will provide assistance to the Criminal Justice Research Center of the Department of Criminal Justice Services as it begins its comprehensive evaluation of the screening and assessment program.