RD93 - Virginia Drug Treatment Courts 2017 Annual Report
In fiscal year 2017, there were forty-nine (49) drug treatment court dockets approved to operate in Virginia. Operating programs include: thirty-two (32) adult, seven (7) juvenile, two (2) family and three (3) regional DUI Drug Treatment Court Dockets. Three adult drug treatment court dockets (Harrisonburg/Rockingham, Smyth County and Virginia Beach) had their first docket later in the year and Danville has not yet formally commenced their docket, one juvenile drug court changed to become a juvenile behavioral health docket and additional applications (one DUI docket, one juvenile drug court and four adult drug courts) were approved later in the year. Currently, forty-four (44) drug treatment court dockets are operating throughout the Commonwealth with the additional localities requesting permission to establish drug treatment court dockets. Data from some of these dockets are not included in this report due to their recent start date.
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)
Since 2012, twenty-two (22) new drug treatment court dockets have been approved to operate. In fiscal year 2015, the Halifax County Adult Drug Treatment Court docket and in fiscal year 2016 the Floyd and Giles Counties Adult Drug Treatment Court dockets as well as the Northwestern Regional, Smyth County and Virginia Beach Circuit Drug Court dockets were approved by the Drug Treatment Court Advisory Committee. In 2017, Lynchburg, Hanover and Montgomery Counties Adult Drug Courts along with Harrisonburg/Rockingham DUI Drug Court Docket and Henrico County Juvenile Drug Court were also approved followed by approval of the Harrisonburg/Rockingham Adult Drug Treatment Court. As part of their application, state funds were not requested and existing resources along with federal grant applications were utilized.
In response to the opiate epidemic, the 2016 budget language authorized funds to support two substance abuse treatment pilot programs at the Norfolk Adult and the Henrico County Adult Drug Courts utilizing non-narcotic, non-addictive, long-acting, injectable prescription drug treatment regimens as well as authorizing the Office of the Executive Secretary to identify eligible adult drug court sites for participation in a pilot program to provide this injectable prescription drug treatment regimens. This year’s (FY17) budget language also included funding for drug courts in jurisdictions with high drug caseloads to be allocated by the state Drug Treatment Court Advisory Committee (Budget Items H.4-6 will be reviewed in detail in next year’s report).
The goals of Virginia drug treatment court dockets are to:
1. Reduce drug addiction and drug dependency among offenders;
This report reviews the basic operations and outcomes of Virginia’s drug treatment court dockets for fiscal year 2017. Information provided includes details of program participants including demographics, program entry offenses, program length, graduation or termination and re-arrest post- program completion. The report is based on 1) data from the drug court database developed and maintained by the OES; and 2) arrest data obtained from the Virginia State Police. Details are provided separately for adult and DUI drug treatment court dockets.
The juvenile drug treatment court docket model served slightly over 100 participants among the seven programs during fiscal year 2017. As a result, only basic data is included for this model. Only two family drug treatment court dockets accepted participants during fiscal year 2017. As a result, there is insufficient data to report on this model. The Commission on Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP) requires the local Alcohol Safety Action Programs (ASAPs) to enter data in the Inferno database. The driving under the influence (DUI) drug treatment court dockets are operated through the local ASAP. Data for the DUI drug treatment court dockets are electronically migrated into the drug court database.
Analyses provided in this report were based on data entered for participants in Virginia’s drug treatment court dockets who entered into a program after July 1, 2013 and completed (successfully or unsuccessfully) a drug treatment court docket program on or before June 30, 2017. Statistical information was provided for participants who remain active. Information provided in this report reviews several new best practices in the drug treatment court docket programs over the past four years, such as the results of the Risk and Needs Triage (RANT) tool (a nationally recognized validated assessment tool) and Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT) training and implementation.
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 non-specialists 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 database for adult drug treatment court staff to use for each referral in order to target the high risk and high need candidates for acceptance.
The National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) announced that evidence-based treatment courts continue to expand and save lives, serving over 127,000 people in the United States in 2014. 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 of the aforementioned
• Drug treatment court dockets rely upon the daily communication and cooperation 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 agency to tackle alone
NADCP released Vol. I and Vol. II of the Adult Drug Court Best Practice Standards(*2) over the last two years, completing the most comprehensive compilation of research-based, specific, practitioner-focused drug court guidance ever produced. The Standards bring to bear over two decades of research on addiction, pharmacology, behavioral health and criminal justice, and include lessons that will not only improve drug court, but will help improve the way the entire system responds to offenders living with addiction or mental illness. Virginia Adult Drug Treatment Court Standards are being revised to correlate with these best practice standards.
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 driving under the influence (DUI) drug treatment court dockets through the Drug Treatment Court Division of the Department of Judicial Services. 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 re-arrest and additional incarceration. Every adult participant accepted into a Virginia drug treatment court docket program saves $19,234 compared to traditional case processing.(*3)
Funding for Drug Treatment Court Dockets
Virginia’s drug treatment court dockets operate 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 to develop 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 established was implemented gradually over the past few years. Programs must meet minimum compliance elements to receive funds. The minimum compliance elements include:
• Approval to operate in Virginia
• Established minimum number of participants enrolled
• 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
• Accountability measures include 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%.
• Additional programs will be added in the order they were approved to operate if compliance with all funding requirements.
Currently, state funds are administered to fifteen (15) adult and four (4) juvenile drug treatment court docket programs in the form of grants. Programs receiving these funds utilize the funds primarily for drug treatment court team personnel. Treatment services for drug treatment court docket participants are generally provided through local public substance abuse treatment systems also known as the 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 establish a Memoranda 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. One juvenile docket received a substantial three-year federal grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Programs. That docket has changed to a juvenile behavioral health docket. Three adult drug treatment court dockets are not currently accepting participants. The two remaining programs, which are DUI drug treatment court docket programs, operated by the local Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP) use offender fees to support their program.
In October 2012, the OES received a Statewide Adult Drug Treatment Court Discretionary grant award from the Bureau of Justice Assistance for $1.5 million. Virginia utilized these funds to not only improve operations of drug treatment court dockets by adding best practices, such as adding probation officers or case managers for participants’ supervision, but also to implement the Risk And Needs Triage (RANT) tool to target the high risk and high needs participants. The cognitive behavioral curriculum-based treatment approach, Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT) was also implemented to improve outcomes and provided staff training on how to use these tools as enhancements to the drug court database. The grant award also provides an emerging trend study of drug court effectiveness with the prescription drug use population. A no-cost extension was granted extending the grant to expire on September 30, 2016.
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 increase staff skills and contributes to enhanced program quality.
As stated previously, every adult participant accepted into a Virginia drug treatment court docket saves $19,234 compared to traditional case processing. These savings are due to positive drug court participant outcomes including fewer arrests, fewer court cases, less probation time, less jail time, and less prison time relative to the comparison group. Overall, the number of adult drug court participants served in FY2016 saved local agencies and the Commonwealth of Virginia greater than $24 million dollars (see Figure 1 on numbered page 6 of the report). This is over two million more dollars than reported saved in 2015. Savings per participant multiplied by the number of participants served is used to calculate these savings. Savings continue to accrue each year, resulting in a continuously growing return on taxpayer investment. These findings suggest a robust and sustained impact of drug court on recidivism compared to the business-as-usual alternative (probation, jail, and/or prison).
In spite of the difference in demographics, as well as each individual drug court’s characteristics and practices, all drug courts experienced a graduation rate above the national average and cost-savings to local agencies and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Results of this study show that Virginia Drug Treatment Courts:
• Reduce recidivism
1. Active Participants: Adult active participants continue to increase every year with FY 2017 having 1,319 versus 1,245 from FY 2016. Family and veteran active participants have slightly increased from previous years. The juvenile program has decreased slightly, as did the DUI active participants, DUI participants decreasing from 1,169 in FY 2016 to 1,117 in FY 2017.
2. Graduates: The number of individuals who successfully completed adult, juvenile, or DUI drug treatment court docket programs in 2017 totaled 522 for an overall graduation rate of 52%. This is a 5% decrease from the 2016 overall graduation rate.
4. Referrals: In 2017, the adult drug treatment courts had 1,266 referrals. That is just under a 7% increase from FY 2016 referrals. The DUI drug treatment courts had 373 referrals; this is a decrease of 22% from FY 2016. Juvenile drug treatment courts totaled 56 referrals, a 23% decrease from FY 2016. The veteran’s treatment courts had 5 and family courts had 4 referrals, which are both up from the previous year, but a decrease from FY 2014 and FY 2015.
5. New Admissions: Of the 1,266 adult drug treatment court referrals, 569 were accepted making that a 45% acceptance rate. For DUI drug treatment courts, 341 of the 373 referrals were accepted, giving them an acceptance rate of 91%.
The number of referrals, acceptances, and active participants in adult drug treatment courts are steadily increasing every year. While those numbers are increasing, the number of graduates and unsuccessful completions (terminations) continue to vary from year to year. Family and Veteran active participants are also increasing, while DUI and Juvenile courts are seeing decreases.