LAC’s Groundbreaking Report Shares Effective Strategies for Use of Medication-Assisted Treatment in Drug Courts

 “Just a phone, a treatment provider, and a doctor – these are the key resources a court needs to incorporate MAT.”

~ Drug court case manager

The Legal Action Center has released a groundbreaking report, Medication-Assisted Treatment in Drug Courts: Recommended StrategiesProduced with the Center for Court Innovation and New York State Unified Court System, the report features three in-depth profiles of drug courts with effective MAT programs.  Sections such as “Nine Components of Successful MAT Programs” and “Specific Issues for Rural Courts” reflect lessons from 10 courts in urban, rural, and suburban areas.

The report shares insights from prosecutors, judges, and other treatment team members to help courts across the country successfully incorporate evidence-based treatment for opioid addiction. The authors provide nuts-and-bolts strategies for addressing common concerns, such as: “How does the court monitor compliance and illicit use of MAT medication?”  “How long do participants stay on MAT?”  “Who decides?”  The report also provides the evidence behind MAT, including its effectiveness in reducing illicit opioid use and criminal behavior.

The section on Nine Components of Effective MAT Programs is a must-read for courts planning and developing MAT programs:

  1. Counseling and other services – plus medication – are essential.
  2. Courts are selective about treatment programs and private prescribing physicians.
  3. Courts develop strong relationships with treatment programs and require regular communication regarding participant progress.
  4. Screening and assessment must consider all clinically appropriate forms of treatment.
  5. Judges rely heavily on the clinical judgment of treatment providers as well as the court’s own clinical staff.
  6. Endorsement of medication-assisted treatment by all members of the drug court team is the goal, but not a prerequisite.
  7. Monitoring for illicit use of medication-assisted treatment medication is a key component of the program and can be accomplished in different ways.
  8. Medications for medication-assisted treatment are covered through government and/or private insurance programs.
  9. Medication-assisted treatment operates very similarly to other kinds of treatment.

“This report shows that there are many ways to successfully incorporate MAT into a court’s operation,” said Sally Friedman, Legal Action Center’s Legal Director. “Its concrete suggestions can help courts, prosecutors, defense counsel, and treatment providers work together to bring more effective, evidence-based treatment into the drug court setting.  With the opioid epidemic ravaging communities across the country, courts need to use all tools available to treat opioid addiction.”

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