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What Is Drug Court Practice?

As the opioid epidemic continues to make front-page news, legal practitioners have opportunities to be part of the remedy.

President Donald Trump's commission on opioids has called for more drug courts to address the "worst drug crisis in U.S. history." The panel recommends drug courts in all federal jurisdictions, and encourages state and local governments to apply for drug-court grants.

If implemented, the plan will triple the number of drug courts in the country. As a result, drug court attorneys will be in demand more than ever.

Triple Demand

Drug courts, often diverted from cases initiated in criminal court, are not adversarial. Judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, social workers, and others work to support rehabilitation for offenders (typically drug or alcohol abusers).

Although drug courts vary, they specialize in programs that target criminal defendants, juvenile offenders, and parents with child welfare cases involving substance abuse. Private attorneys represent offenders in drug court, but also in supporting the process.

Those services may include:

  • Informing clients about treatment and rehablitation services
  • Educating the court, prosecutor and social workers about client issues
  • Monitoring, i.e. drug tests, and reporting on client progress
  • Encouraging family and support groups to participate in programs

Treatment, Not Prison

To help opioid addicts, treatment may include methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone prescription and monitoring. Patients tend to have fewer positive tests for illegal drugs, and are less likely to fall back in to addiction, according to the report.

The commission also recommended block grants to cities and states, training for doctors, and changes in insurance reimbursement to encourage alternatives to opioids.

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