(Chicago) — More than 1,300 people across the country registered for a July 10 webinar offering solutions for law enforcement and justice system partners on the front lines of responding to the national opioid epidemic.
Moderated by Allison Upton, senior policy analyst at the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, and hosted by CSG’s National Reentry Resource Center, the webinar, entitled “Opioid Addiction Screening and Assessment for People in the Criminal Justice System,” focuses on best practices for screening and assessing people who have opioid addictions and are in, or at risk of entering, the criminal justice system.
The webinar features a review of available screening instruments and how police and other justice practitioners and first responders can select tools and strategies that work best for their programs and jurisdictions.
Opening remarks were offered by Upton and Andre Bethea, policy advisor for corrections at the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, which provided funding support for the webinar. Speakers on screening tools and intervention strategies included Roger Peters, PhD, clinical psychologist and professor in the Department of Mental Health Law and Policy at the University of South Florida, as well as Jac Charlier and Phillip Barbour of the Center for Health and Justice (CHJ) at TASC.
“The tremendous interest in the webinar and these tools speaks to the interest in screening and opioids right now, as law enforcement, justice partners, researchers, behavioral health experts, and community leaders are all coming together to find ways to save lives,” said Charlier, national director for justice initiatives at CHJ. “Screening tools are one of the quickest and easiest ways to identify people who need help right away.”
Peters offered an overview of the need for screening and assessment tools, including the high rates of opioid use disorders and the prevalence of co-occurring mental disorders. In terms of screening, there are a number of specific considerations for opioid addiction, which may include such factors as severity of withdrawal, interactions with alcohol and other drugs, the individual’s overdose history, mental health and medical issues, prior injuries and use of pain medication, risk-taking behavior, criminal justice and/or child welfare system involvement, functional aspects of use, family history, and individual strengths and skills.
Given the urgency of the epidemic and the complexity of issues around opioid addiction, he noted that there are many implications for staff training in signs and symptoms of use as well as withdrawal.
“The good news is we have a wide variety of screening and assessment instruments that are available,” said Peters. “Many of them are free-of-charge, non-proprietary instruments, and these include screens for opioid use withdrawal.”
Barbour, master trainer at CHJ, discussed the development and use of the TCU Drug Screen 5 – Opioid Supplement, co-developed by CHJ with Dr. Kevin Knight and Dr. Patrick Flynn of the TCU Institute of Behavioral Research. The free tool can help determine earlier in the screening and referral process if there is an immediate need for services to address opioid use problems.
“The TCU Drug Screen 5 screens for mild to severe substance use disorders, and is particularly useful when determining placement and level of care in a very quick way,” said Barbour. As a practical resource to help determine who needs immediate access to treatment, “it helps first responders and non-clinical personnel to implement a simpler, faster way to identify people in need of intervention for opioid addiction,” he said.
“There are pathways, or frameworks, that help us understand what this newly emerging field of pre-arrest diversion looks like,” added Charlier. He described five pathways in which first responders, and particularly law enforcement, are connecting to substance use treatment and behavioral health services in communities, such as the Naloxone Plus model, a pre-arrest diversion model that rapidly connects people to treatment after an overdose.
Rather than seeking to replicate a single program model to respond to opioid addiction, Charlier advised, jurisdictions are better served by responding to the problem as well as resources specific to their communities, and seek to “solve that problem by putting the pathways together in the combination that works for your jurisdiction, based on the resources you have, the leadership you have within your police/treatment/community settings, and other factors like your recovery community, time to treatment—all these pathways and frameworks have different combinations, different ‘recipes,’ if you will, that are needed to make them go.”
TASC’s Center for Health and Justice is the national training partner for TCU’s Institute of Behavioral Research, including training on the TCU Drug Screen 5 – Opioid Supplement. For training on the opioid supplement and other TCU resources, or for other resources for law enforcement and justice systems in responding to the opioid epidemic, contact Jac Charlier, national director for justice initiatives at CHJ.