Training increases judges’ understanding of opioid use disorder

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Training increases judges’ understanding of opioid use disorder

Judges who received opioid use disorder (OUD) training are more likely to view OUD as a chronic disease and a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to a recently released report.

The training also led more judges to conclude that funding should be increased for those who benefit from court-ordered OUD services.

The NCSC-directed Appalachian/Midwest Regional Judicial Opioid Initiative (RJOI) administered the training through a learning model called the Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes, or Project ECHO.

Judge Geno Salomone of the Michigan 23rd District Court praised the training, the first time ECHO was used by the courts.

“I can speak for all of the panel members in Michigan,” Judge Salomone said. “We loved using the ECHO model. Its brief-time limits are strictly adhered to, but informative. It allows a limited group of attendees access to a number of experts on the topic at hand, and it utilizes real cases. Equally as important, because of the strict scheduling, it avoids Zoom fatigue.”

More than 75 judges in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia completed a survey before the opioid training, and 54 did so afterward.

The surveys, conducted by Wayne State University’s Center for Behavioral Health and Justice, show:

  • Ninety-two percent of the judges strongly agreed, post-training, that recovery is possible after a substance abuse relapse, compared with 75 percent pre-training.
  • Eighty-five percent strongly agreed that addressing OUD should be a goal of the justice system, compared with 76 percent before the training.
  • Seventy-five percent strongly agreed after training that funding should be increased for OUD services, compared with 67 percent before the training.
  • Sixty-six percent strongly agreed post-training that judges should rely on experts to determine how to use medicine to treat those who abuse opioids, compared with 56 percent pre-training.
  • Sixty-four percent of judges strongly agreed, post-training, that OUD is a disability under the American with Disabilities Act, compared with 21 percent before training.
  • Seventy percent strongly agreed that OUD is a chronic disease after training, compared with 55 percent pre-training.

“The Project ECHO model successfully provided a new training delivery tool for judges and created learning loops and linkages to medical and addiction experts within their communities,” said Michelle Cern, a NCSC principal court management consultant who helped oversee the training. “We hope that will lead to continued engagement and collaboration.”

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