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Screening and Assessment for Substance Use Disorders

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2022
4 pages

This “brief” provided by the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) under BJA’s Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant, and Substance Abuse Program (COSSAP) informs judges and court officials about screening and assessment for substance use disorders (SUDs) in individuals appearing in criminal courts, as well as how judges and court officials can help incorporate these tools into court processes.



The need for such screening is based on data that show two-thirds of individuals in local jails who are sentenced have a SUD, and three-fourths of the same population reported regular use of drugs. Evidence supports a multisystemic, cross-disciplinary approach to addressing SUDs among people involved in the criminal justice system, with early identification of SUDs, followed by linking to treatment, possibly diverting them from entering the criminal justice system and reducing their risk of adverse health outcomes. The current brief discusses  how judges can promote the value of screening and assessment of persons appearing before the court by acknowledging in the courtroom the connection between a referral or order and the client’s outcome. It is important that judicial orders be sufficiently broad to enable trained clinicians to recommend the best course of clinical treatment for the individual. Judges may consider requiring written agreements with prosecutors that clarify acceptable/unacceptable use of information gleaned during screening and assessment.


Date Published: April 1, 2022