Treating Addiction with Care, not Jail
Todd’s twenties were difficult. Issues with substance misuse and run-ins with the law landed him in a court-ordered treatment program, and it didn’t look like he was going to break out of the cycle. Every time he received the judge’s orders, he failed to comply. Todd’s future looked bleak; if he didn’t receive help, he was headed for jail.
But he was a member of a special program – drug court – and the drug court team wasn’t ready to give up on him. They referred Todd to their Minnesota hospital partner, Allina Health’s New Ulm Medical Center, for a neuropsychological exam, which revealed extensive brain injury and damage. The exam resulted in suggestions for how to better communicate with Todd, including the use of certain audio and visual cues.
Once the judge incorporated these communication techniques, Todd was better able to understand, remember and comply with the judge’s orders. Today, he is in recovery, has a full-time job and has stayed out of jail.
Hospitals partnering with law enforcement to make treatment a priority
Todd’s case is not unique. Rates of serious mental illness in the incarcerated population are at least three to four times higher than rates of serious mental illness in the general population. Since 2000, over 770 suicides have been attempted in Minnesota jails.
Drug courts began in Minnesota in 1996 to treat undetected substance use disorders, give participants support for recovery and ultimately reduce the chance of reoffending. Drug courts bring together professionals including hospital partners to help participants engage positively in their communities. To qualify for the program, individuals must meet criteria for substance use disorder and have been convicted of a nonviolent criminal offense.
In Brown County, Todd’s drug court team consists of a judge, drug court coordinator, county attorney, defense attorney, drug and alcohol treatment counselor, mental health professional, law enforcement officer and other professionals. The local hospital provides substance use counselors to the drug court team. Their expertise helped identify and address underlying health issues that were contributing to Todd’s substance use.
Share this entry
Mental health and substance use disorder treatment in Minnesota
In a 2012 study of 535 individuals who had gone through drug court, nearly half were diagnosed with both a substance use disorder and a co-existing mental health condition. The goal of drug court is to keep people from committing criminal offenses and out of jail;— often a critical component is treating mental health conditions and substance use disorders. Minnesota’s hospitals play a major role in ensuring drug court participants receive treatment and begin the path of recovery.
“The participants in drug court come and see us, starting at three times per week,” said Larsen. “They remain in treatment with us for the two years they’re in drug court so they have additional support, can process the things that have held them back in the past and can work toward creating a good, strong, stable recovery plan.”
Mental health treatment begins with a complete biopsychosocial assessment, which takes into account many factors, including medical, mental and environmental influences.
“We look at all the different components of their life so we can get them the services they need,” said Larsen. A treatment recommendation is then made to the court.
Partnerships strengthen healthy communities
Drug court has been an overwhelming success for participants like Todd and entire communities. In some cases, participants return to serve on drug court teams, strengthening the program that made a difference in their lives. A mother who was addicted to methamphetamine now manages a local business and gives back by hiring others who are going through drug court. A woman who had not received treatment for her mental illness until the local hospital and drug court stepped in is now a model member of her drug court team.
Drug courts are successful because community partners work together for community solutions. Minnesota’s hospitals believe Minnesota communities are healthier and stronger when people who need mental health and addiction treatment receive it. Hospitals play a pivotal role in communities across the state by breaking cycles of substance use and changing lives – and the work of hospitals is strengthened by a shared community response.