This policy brief highlights the common challenges and opportunities for governors and state officials to inform state and local policy development and improve outcomes for individuals with SUD who are under community supervision.
Governors recognize the importance of addressing opioid, stimulant, and polysubstance use, as well as the unique needs of justice-involved individuals with substance use disorder (SUD). Governors and senior state officials have led the nation’s response to addiction challenges and the opioid epidemic over the last decade. This response has included recognizing that the risk of overdose for individuals returning to the community from incarceration is significantly higher than for members of the general population and that drug overdose remains a leading cause of death following release from jail or prison. With many individuals released from incarceration to probation and parole as well as sentenced directly to supervision, addressing the SUD treatment needs and the risk of overdose within this population is a key priority for governors and state officials.
The Bureau of Justice Assistance at the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, is supporting efforts by states and localities to address these issues through the Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant, and Substance Abuse Program (COSSAP). The purpose of this program is to provide financial and technical assistance to state and local governments to Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant, and Substance Abuse Program (COSSAP) Community Supervision and Treatment of Individuals With Substance Use Disorder Challenges and Opportunities for Governors and State Officials develop, implement, or expand comprehensive efforts to identify, respond to, treat, and support individuals impacted by illicit opioids, stimulants, and other drugs of abuse. A key priority of COSSAP is to promote public safety and support access to recovery services in the criminal justice system.
During a COSSAP-funded roundtable discussion in December 2020, officials from seven states shared their challenges and innovative approaches to improving community supervision of individuals with SUD. The states represented were Arkansas, Delaware, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee.
This policy brief highlights the common challenges and opportunities for governors and state officials to inform state and local policy development and improve outcomes for individuals with SUD who are under community supervision. The common challenges and opportunities articulated by state participants fell under the following three main themes:
Addressing divergent views on public safety risks through cross-agency coordination and partnership. Governors and state officials noted that one overarching challenge to improving outcomes for individuals with SUD on community supervision is the barrier created when corrections and behavioral health stakeholders define public safety differently. Bridging the gap between these fields and learning to speak the same language with regard to SUD treatment and supervision of individuals in the community can help ensure successful programs and improve outcomes.
Ensuring access to community-based SUD treatment through increased planning and use of innovative strategies. The second challenge states raised was ensuring continuity of care upon release from incarceration as well as access to treatment within the community. Increasing reentry planning and coordination, leveraging resources to expand capacity, and utilizing innovative strategies such as telehealth services can help improve outcomes for justice-involved individuals with SUD in the community.
Implementing evidence-based practices for community supervision that align with SUD treatment goals. The third main theme shared by state participants was the need to improve supervision policies and practices to better align with SUD treatment goals. States can review supervision policies to identify barriers to treatment access and implement evidence-based supervision practices to reduce revocations and improve public safety and public health outcomes.