RD616 - Virginia Drug Treatment Courts 2018 Annual Report

Executive Summary:

In fiscal year (FY) 2018, there were fifty (50) drug treatment court dockets approved to operate in Virginia. Approved programs included: thirty-seven (37) adult, seven (7) juvenile, three (3) family and three (3) regional driving under the influence (DUI) Drug Treatment Court Dockets. Data from some of these dockets are not included in this report due to their recent start date or nonoperational status.

The goals of Virginia drug treatment court dockets are to:

• Reduce drug addiction and drug dependency among offenders;
• Reduce recidivism;
• Reduce drug-related court workloads;
• Increase personal, familial and societal accountability among offenders; and
• Promote effective planning and use of resources among the criminal justice system and community agencies.

Drug treatment court dockets are growing exponentially in the Commonwealth. Much of the recent growth is attributed to the 2012 budget language authorizing the Drug Treatment Court Advisory Committee to consider approval of new drug treatment court dockets providing they utilize existing resources and not request state funds. The budget provision provides:

Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection O. of § 18.2-254.1, Code of Virginia, any locality is authorized to establish a drug treatment court supported by existing state resources and by federal or local resources that may be available. This authorization is subject to the requirements and conditions regarding the establishment and operation of a local drug treatment court advisory committee as provided by §18.2-254.1 and the requirements and conditions established by the state Drug Treatment Court Advisory Committee. Any drug court treatment program established after July 1, 2012, shall limit participation in the program to offenders who have been determined, through the use of nationally recognized, validated assessment tool, to be addicted to or dependent on drugs. However, no such drug court treatment program shall limit its participation to first-time substance abuse offenders only; nor shall it exclude probation violators from participation."(*1)

This report reviews the basic operations and outcomes of Virginia’s drug treatment court dockets for FY 2018. The analyses provided in this report were based on data entered for participants in Virginia’s drug treatment court dockets who were enrolled in a drug treatment court program after July 1, 2013 and completed (successfully or unsuccessfully) a drug treatment court docket program on or before June 30, 2018. The information provided includes measures of program participants including demographics, program entry offenses, length of program participation, graduation and termination, and rearrest/reconviction post program completion.

The report is based on 1) data extracted from the drug court database developed and maintained by OES; and 2) arrest data obtained from the Virginia State Police (VSP). Details are provided separately for adult and DUI drug treatment court dockets. The Commission on Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP) requires the local Alcohol Safety Action Programs (ASAPs) to enter data in the Inferno database, and the data is routinely migrated into the drug treatment court docket database.

The juvenile drug treatment court docket model served slightly less than 100 participants among the seven programs during fiscal year 2018. As a result, only basic data is included for this model. Only two (2) family drug treatment court dockets accepted participants during FY 2018. As a result, there is minimal data to report on this model.

Also, information provided in this report reviews several new best practices in the drug treatment court docket programs over the past five years, such as the results of the Risk and Needs Triage (RANT) tool. RANT is a highly secure web-based decision support tool designed with criminal justice professionals in mind. The tool demonstrates how drug-involved offenders can be matched to the level of supervision and treatment best suited to both their criminogenic risks and clinical needs. RANT was selected to comply with the 2012 budget language noted above, “Any drug court treatment program established after July 1, 2012, shall limit participation in the program to offenders who have been determined, through the use of a nationally recognized, validated assessment tool, to be addicted to or dependent on drugs." RANT is easily administered by nonspecialists in 15 minutes or less and offers instant, individual participant-level reporting. RANT consists of 19 questions. Federal grant funds allowed the OES to purchase the intellectual property to add RANT to the drug court docket database for adult drug treatment court docket staff to use for each referral in order to target the high risk and high need candidates for acceptance.

Best Practice

The National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) announced that evidence-based treatment court dockets continue to expand and save lives, serving over 2,900 drug court dockets and more than 127,000 participants in the United States in 2018. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the drug treatment court docket model is a best practice because:

• Graduating participants gain the necessary tools to rebuild their lives.
• Drug treatment court docket participants are provided intensive treatment and other services for a minimum of one year.
• There are frequent court appearances and random drug testing with sanctions and incentives to encourage compliance and completion. Successful completion of the treatment program results in dismissal of the charges, reduced or set-aside sentences, lesser penalties, or a combination.
• Drug treatment court dockets rely upon the daily participation of judges, court personnel, probation, treatment providers, and providers of other social services.
• The problem of drugs and crime is much too broad for any single entity to tackle alone(*2).

NADCP released Vol. I and Vol. II of the Adult Drug Court Best Practice Standards in the past five years, completing the most comprehensive compilation of research-based, specific, practitioner-focused drug court guidance ever produced.(*3) The Standards compile two decades of research on addiction, pharmacology, behavioral health and criminal justice, and include lessons that will not only improve drug court dockets, but will help improve the way the entire judicial system responds to offenders living with addiction or mental illness. Virginia Adult Drug Treatment Court Standards are being consistently measured and updated to ensure compliance with best practices.

Administration of Drug Treatment Court Dockets in Virginia

The Office of the Executive Secretary (OES) of the Supreme Court of Virginia facilitates the development, implementation, and monitoring of local adult, juvenile, family, and DUI drug treatment court dockets through the Drug Treatment Court Division of the Department of Judicial Services within OES. The State Drug Treatment Court Advisory Committee established pursuant to Virginia Code § 18.2-254.1 offers recommendations to the Chief Justice regarding recognition and funding for drug treatment court docket programs, best practices, and minimum standards for program operations. The Committee also evaluates all proposals requesting to establish new drug treatment court dockets and offers recommendations to the Chief Justice.

Drug treatment court dockets have been operating in the Commonwealth for more than 20 years and their efficacy and effectiveness is well documented. In times of serious budget cuts, the drug treatment court docket model offers state and local governments a cost-effective way to increase the percentage of sustained recovery of addicted offenders thereby improving public safety and reducing costs associated with rearrest and additional incarceration. Every adult participant who completes a Virginia drug treatment court docket program saves the Commonwealth $19,234 compared to an adult who receives traditional case processing.(*4)

Funding for Virginia’s Drug Treatment Court Dockets

Virginia’s drug treatment court dockets operated under a funding strategy developed in 2009 by a work group as part of an ongoing strategic goal of Virginia’s drug treatment court docket community. The goal was to formulate a plan to address the long-term funding of drug treatment court dockets in Virginia over a ten-year period in a way that would support currently funded, unfunded, and future drug treatment court dockets. The result was a funding formula that is both reliable in its consistency from year to year and sufficient in scale to at least maintain the operations of the Commonwealth’s current programs. The funding formula is based on two elements: 1) the number of participants served by the program; and 2) accountability measures. The funds are distributed in the form of grants. Recognizing a secure dedicated funding stream may not be near, and to maintain operations and provide consistency, the funding strategy is currently being reconsidered by a sustainability workgroup. Under the current protocol, programs must meet minimum compliance elements to receive funds. The minimum compliance elements include:

• Approval to operate in Virginia;
• Enrollment of a minimum number of participants;
• Compliance with Virginia Drug Court Standards as determined by the Drug Treatment Court Advisory Committee;
• Compliance with data entry into the drug court database;
• Compliance with grant reporting requirements if currently receiving funds; Achievement of benchmark program retention and recidivism rates. (Benchmark target rates for program retention and recidivism rates will be determined by OES every four years, based on the average of all like-model dockets over the past two years of program operation with +/-5%.

Currently, state funds are administered to twenty-seven (27) adult and six (6) juvenile drug treatment court docket programs in the form of grants. Programs receiving these funds utilize the funds primarily for drug treatment court docket team personnel. Treatment services for drug treatment court docket participants are generally provided through local public substance abuse treatment systems also known as Community Services Boards (CSB) or the Behavioral Health Authorities. Participant supervision is provided by state probation and parole officers or local community corrections officers.

The drug treatment court dockets receiving state grant funds establish a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with their local CSB for needed treatment services and the Department of Corrections, or local Community Corrections, for needed supervision of participants with agreed upon financial and/or professional personnel arrangements. The remaining dockets operate without state funds and draw upon local funds and in-kind services, augmented in a few situations by federal grant funds and other resources. The family drug treatment programs do not receive state funds administered by OES and the DUI drug treatment court docket programs operated by the local Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP) use offender fees to support their program.

All Virginia drug court dockets expressed concern around securing and maintaining adequate funding, especially to address issues specific to their unique participant populations. The aftercare component of dockets is crucial, and merits increased attention. While all dockets support staff training, additional topic specific training is needed: for example, training specific to using injectable naltrexone, naloxone, and other medications; relapse prevention warning signs, and cultural competency. Ongoing professional development increases staff skills and contributes to enhanced program quality.

As stated previously, every adult participant accepted into a Virginia drug treatment court docket saves the Commonwealth $19,234 compared to traditional case processing. These savings are due to positive drug court docket participant outcomes including fewer arrests, fewer court docket cases, less probation time, less jail time, and less prison time relative to the comparison group. Overall, the number of adult drug court docket participants served in FY 2018 saved local agencies and the Commonwealth of Virginia greater than $11.1 million dollars. This is over three million more dollars than reported saved in 2017. Savings per participant multiplied by the number of participant departures is used to calculate these savings. Savings continue to accrue each year, resulting in a continuously growing return on taxpayer investment. These findings suggest drug court has a robust and sustained impact on recidivism compared to the alternative (probation, jail, and/or prison).

FY 2018 Summary Measures

Despite differences in demographics, as well as each individual drug court docket’s characteristics and practices, all Virginia drug court dockets continued to experience a graduation rate above the national average and provided cost- savings to local agencies and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Results of this study show that Virginia Drug Treatment Court Dockets (see Figure 1 on numbered page 5 of the report):

• Created a cost savings of over $11 million in taxpayer dollars.
• Increased the number of active participants.
• Served participants with severe substance abuse needs.

FY 2018 Activity Summary

Active Participants: Adult active participants continued to increase every year with 1,319 active participants in FY 2017 and 1,491 active participants in FY 2018. Family and veteran active participants slightly increased from previous years, as well. Juvenile active participants decreased from 102 in FY 2017 to 92 in FY 2018. DUI active participants increased from 1,117 in FY 2017 to 1,130 in FY 2018.

Graduates: A total of 1,149 participants exited an adult, DUI, or juvenile drug treatment court docket. Of the 1,149 departures, 638 successfully completed a program for an overall graduation rate of 55.5%. The graduation rate was a 2.5 percentage point increase from the FY 2017 overall graduation rate.

Terminations: There were 511 participants terminated from an adult, DUI, or juvenile drug treatment court docket during FY 2018 which resulted in a 44.5% overall termination rate. This was a decrease from the 48% overall termination rate reported in FY 2017.

Referrals: The adult drug treatment court dockets had 1,313 referrals, which is a 4% increase from the reported FY 2017 referrals (1,266). The DUI drug treatment court dockets had 454 referrals, a 22% increase from FY 2017. Juvenile drug treatment court dockets totaled 39 referrals, a 30% decrease from FY 2017. The veterans and family treatment court dockets had 9 and 10 referrals, respectively, which were both increases from the previous fiscal year.

New Admissions: There were 1,313 referrals made to the adult drug treatment court dockets, and 589 were accepted, resulting in a 45% acceptance rate. For DUI drug treatment court dockets, 402 of the 454 referrals were accepted, resulting in an acceptance rate of 89%. For the juvenile drug treatment court dockets, 33 of the 39 referrals were accepted, resulting in an acceptance rate of 85%.

The number of referrals, acceptances, and active participants in adult drug treatment court dockets have steadily increased each year. Family, DUI, and veteran docket active participants also increased, while juvenile court dockets continue to see decreases. The number of graduates and unsuccessful completions (terminations) continued to vary from year to year.
(*1) Chapter 780 – 2016 Virginia Acts of Assembly – Item 40.H.2
(*2) https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/default/files/page/files/drug_courts_fact_sheet_10-13-11.pdf
(*3) https://ndcrc.org/resource/nadcp-adult-drug-court-best-practice-standards-volume-ii/
(*4)  https://rga.lis.virginia.gov/Published/2012/RD369/PDF