RD624 - Virginia Drug Treatment Court Dockets Fiscal Year 2023 Annual Report
Virginia’s first drug treatment court docket was established in 1995 in the 23rd Judicial Circuit, which includes the Cities of Roanoke and Salem, and the County of Roanoke. During fiscal year (FY) 2023, there were sixty (60) approved drug treatment court dockets operating in Virginia. Approved operational dockets include: fifty-one (51) adult, three (3) juvenile, five (5) family, and one (1) regional driving under the influence (DUI) drug treatment court docket. Data from four(*1) of these dockets are not included in this report due to their recent start date with limited data available.
The goals of Virginia drug treatment court dockets are to:
• Reduce substance use among offenders.
• Reduce recidivism.
• Reduce substance-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 offer substance use and mental health treatment to participants as an alternative to traditional case processing. They may also often include alternatives to incarceration, case dismissal, reduction in charges, and/or reduction in supervision. According to the National Institute on Mental Health at the National Institutes of Health substance use disorders are a mental disorder that affects a person’s brain and behavior, leading to a person’s inability to control their use of substances such as legal or illegal drugs, alcohol, or medications. But being a brain disease does not exclude substance use disorder from being a mental health condition, as well. These terms are synonymous, describing the way excessive drug use can affect and change the brain, and affect both thinking and behavior. Almost a quarter million adults in Virginia live with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders.(*2) About 70 - 80% of participants in a Drug Treatment Court Dockets have law enforcement involvement, which does not result in increased access to appropriate care but rather results in their over-representation within the criminal justice system. Drug treatment court dockets incorporate evidence-based strategies in a public health approach to accommodate offenders with specific problems and needs that are not or could not be adequately addressed in the traditional court setting, resulting in increased public safety by integrating the criminal justice system with treatment systems and community resources.
This report reviews the basic operations and outcomes of Virginia’s drug treatment court dockets during FY 2023. The analyses provided in this report are based on data for participants who were enrolled in a drug treatment court docket program during the period of July 1, 2022, through June 30, 2023, regardless of the outcome of their participation. (*3) 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 exit.
All data provided in this report are based on the following: 1) data extracted from the Virginia specialty dockets database developed and maintained by OES; and 2) arrest data obtained from the Virginia State Police (VSP).
The DUI, family and juvenile drug treatment court docket models served a limited number of participants during FY 2023. As a result, only basic data are included for these models.
Information provided in this report encompasses several best practices in the drug treatment court dockets over the years, such as use of the Risk and Needs Triage (RANT®) tool. The RANT® tool yields an immediate report that classifies potential drug court participants into one of four risk/needs quadrants with the tool indicating what level of supervision and treatment are best suited to the potential participants’ criminogenic risks and clinical needs. This tool is required for all persons being screened as potential drug court participants.
According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the drug treatment court docket model is a best practice for the following reasons:
• 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.
All Rise, formerly, the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, released Volumes I and II of the Adult Drug Court Best Practice Standards, Text Revision, in 2019, a comprehensive compilation of research-based, specific, practitioner-focused drug court guidance.(*4) The Standards compile two decades of research on addiction, pharmacology, behavioral health and criminal justice, and will improve drug court dockets, and help improve the way the entire judicial system responds to offenders living with addiction or mental illness.
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 Specialty Dockets 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 dockets, best practices, and minimum standards for docket operations. The Committee also evaluates all proposals requesting to establish new drug treatment court dockets and offers recommendations to the Chief Justice.
The “term ‘specialty dockets’ refers to specialized court dockets within the existing structure of Virginia's circuit and district court system offering judicial monitoring of intensive treatment, supervision, and remediation integral to case disposition."(*5) “The Supreme Court of Virginia currently recognizes the following three types of specialty dockets: (i) drug treatment court dockets as provided for in the Drug Treatment Court Act, § 18.2-254.1, (ii) veterans dockets, and (iii) behavioral/mental health dockets. Drug treatment court dockets offer judicial monitoring of intensive treatment and strict supervision in drug and drug-related cases."(*6)
Funding for Virginia’s Drug Treatment Court Dockets
Virginia’s drug treatment court dockets operate using a sustainable funding strategy approved by the Drug Treatment Court Advisory Committee. The goal was to address the long-term funding for all drug treatment court dockets in Virginia in a way that would support currently funded, unfunded, and future drug treatment court dockets. The Advisory Committee employs a data-driven formula to ensure accuracy and fairness of resource allocation to standardize the funding of as many drug court dockets as possible. Accuracy is measured using data entered in the specialty dockets database. Fairness is measured based on the distribution of funding to all Virginia Drug Treatment Court dockets. Transparency is achieved by clearly identifying the funding process and making the awarding procedures easily accessible for each drug treatment court docket. The Advisory Committee strives to ensure that jurisdictions that wish to create drug treatment court dockets to address substance misuse are encouraged to do so within the national evidence-based criteria that ensures consistent and predictable outcomes.
The Drug Treatment Court Advisory Committee will continue to pursue additional funds for drug treatment court dockets so eventually there will be enough resources to fund all eligible Virginia Drug Treatment Court Dockets. State drug treatment court funds are not intended to be the program’s sole source of funding. As a result, drug treatment court dockets must demonstrate sufficient local support for sustainability.
All dockets receiving these funds must meet the following minimum compliance standards:
√ Obtain approval from the Drug Treatment Court Advisory Committee to begin operation;
√ Meet all applicable Virginia Drug Treatment Court Standards; (*7)
√ Enter all required information and statistics into the Specialty Docket’s database to track compliance.
√ Complete and submit quarterly grant reports on time;
√ Identify and report retention and recidivism rates for all participants;(*8)
√ Demonstrate a match (cash/in-kind) of 25% based on the established formula utilized by the Bureau of Justice Assistance for Drug Court grants;
Currently, state funds are administered to twenty-eight (28) adult drug treatment court dockets through a reimbursable grant process. Dockets 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 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 operated by the local Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP) uses offender fees to support the docket.
All Virginia drug treatment court dockets find it challenging to secure and maintain adequate funding, especially to address issues specific to their unique participant populations. While all dockets support staff training, additional funding for topic specific training is needed: for example, training specific to using injectable naltrexone, naloxone, and other medications; relapse prevention warning signs, and cultural competency. These ongoing professional development increase staff skills and contribute to enhanced program quality.
As reported in the 2012 Virginia Drug Treatment Courts Cost Benefits Analysis, every adult participant accepted into a Virginia drug treatment court docket saves the Commonwealth $19,234 compared to traditional case processing.(*9) (Additional details are reviewed in “Virginia Adult Treatment Court Dockets Cost Benefit Analysis" in page 11-12).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 2023 saved local agencies and the Commonwealth of Virginia over $4.8 million.
FY 2023 Summary Measures
• Virginia Adult Drug Treatment Court Dockets save $19,234 per person as compared to traditional case processing. A total of 249 participants successfully completed an adult drug treatment court program.
o FY 2023 yielded an estimated cost savings of over $4.8 million.
• The number of adult drug treatment court participants decreased by 8.5% from the value reported in FY 2022.
• Almost 92% of accepted adult participants scored as high risk/high need on the RANT®.
• High levels of sobriety were measured by drug screens negative for alcohol and drugs for adult, juvenile, and family dockets at 84.5%, 68.9%, and 40.3% respectively.
• Juvenile dockets reported 20 active participants, a 33.3% decrease from FY 2022, while family treatment dockets reported 39 participants, a 44.4 % increase from FY 2022.
• A total of 523 participants exited an adult drug treatment court docket, a 2% decrease from the 531 departures reported in FY 2022.
• The 3-year reconviction rate for those who successfully completed an adult drug treatment court docket in FY 2020 was 22.1%.
FY 2023 Activity Summary
Active Participants: Adult drug treatment dockets reported 1,283 active participants in FY 2023, a 8.5% decrease from the 1,403 reported in FY 2022. Juvenile drug treatment court dockets reported 20 active participants, a 33.3% decrease from the 30 reported in FY 2023, while family drug treatment court dockets reported 39 participants, a 44.4% increase from the 27 reported in FY 2022.
Graduates: A total of 525 participants exited an adult, family, or juvenile drug treatment court docket. Of the 525 departures, 259 successfully completed a program for an overall graduation rate of 49.3%.
Terminations: There were 265 participants terminated from an adult, family, or juvenile drug treatment court docket which resulted in a 50.4 % overall termination rate.
Referrals: The adult drug treatment court dockets had 1,077 referrals, which was a 16.18% increase from the 927 referrals reported in FY 2022. Twenty-Five referrals were made to juvenile drug treatment court dockets, while 33 were made to family drug treatment court dockets.
New Admissions: Of the 1,077 referrals made to the adult drug treatment court docket programs, 580 referrals were accepted, resulting in a 53.9% acceptance rate. Eight of the 25 referrals to the juvenile drug treatment court docket were accepted, resulting in an acceptance rate of 32.0%, while 23 of the 33 referrals to a family drug treatment court docket were accepted for an acceptance rate of 69.7%.