Adoption of Virtual Services in Judicially Led Diversion Programs Preliminary Survey Findings

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Kristina Bryant
Principal Court Management Consultant
Court Consulting Services
303.308.4315

Adoption of Virtual Services in Judicially Led Diversion Programs Preliminary Findings

Williamsburg, VA (February 11, 2021) - The National Center for State Courts (NCSC), Rulo Strategies, and Wayne State University, Center for Behavioral Health and Justice, in partnership with the SAMHSA-funded Opioid Response Network, conducted one of the first nationwide explorations of virtual services in judicially led diversion programs since March 2020.

This initiative resulted in the publication of a report, Adoption of Virtual Services in Judicially Led Diversion Programs: Preliminary Survey Findings, which is being released today and shared with stakeholders across the country.

Background

As a result of public health measures designed to slow community spread of COVID-19, practitioners in judicially led diversion programs quickly recognized the need to deliver services virtually to facilitate what had traditionally been in-person interactions.  Adoption of virtual services went from innovative to essential and many judicially led diversion programs were compelled to implement virtual services with little or no prior experience using such capabilities, and without the opportunity to study recommended practices, identify and develop protocols tailored to their program, and adequately train both program staff and participants.

The report released today highlights preliminary survey findings based on 500 respondents involved in judicially led diversion programs.  The survey respondents represent 298 unique judicially led diversion programs in forty states and territories and reflect the perspectives of practitioners from court operations, treatment and recovery support, and community supervision in November and December 2020.

The report examines how practices were modified in judicially led diversion programs, highlights barriers and facilitators program staff experienced during the implementation of these practices, and identifies the reported effectiveness of these practices in different domains, including court hearings, pre-court staffings, treatment, and community supervision.

Preliminary Survey Findings

The authors anticipate the preliminary findings will both affirm and challenge some of the observations and assumptions practitioners involved in judicially led diversion programs have made as a result of their experience pre- and post-March 2020.

The report addresses practitioners’ views of quality of information exchanged, quality of interaction, participants’ willingness to talk during court, participant court attendance, efficiency of modified operations, changes in participant substance use and drivers of use, and supervision contacts. In addition, the report examines practitioners’ views of barriers and facilitators associated with implementing virtual services for themselves and participants.

Select preliminary findings:

  • Forty-nine percent of the responding court programs advise reported holding court virtually as of November/December 2020.
  • Sixty-three percent of the respondents felt the quality of information exchanged during court was the same when court is offered virtually.
  • Fifty-seven percent of the respondents noted a decrease in the judge’s ability to form connections with participants when court is offered virtually in comparison to face to face.
  • Forty-seven percent of respondents ranked their support for continuing virtual court hearings as high.
  • Seventy-six percent of the respondents noted efficiency of pre-court staffings as “high” when held virtually and 63% of the respondents noted a high level of support for continuing virtual pre-court staffings.
  • Fifty-nine percent of respondents advise of no change in the treatment providers’ ability to gather information needed to determine eligibility when assessments are conducted virtually.
  • Respondents who experienced less barriers to transition to virtual practices were more likely to support on-going virtual practices.
Next Steps

The authors continue to collect surveys from practitioners working in judicially led diversion programs through April 1, 2021. In addition, a companion survey to collect  de-identified data  from  court participants  will  be launched on February 17, 2021 and will conclude in mid-April 2021.  An updated report will be released in the spring of 2021 with data from additional practitioner respondents, as well as the data collected from participant respondents.

Acknowledgment

The authors would like to thank all of the individuals who responded to the survey and the court programs that participated. We would also like to thank the state court administrators, the statewide problem-solving court coordinators, and regional and national organizations that support judicially led diversion programs who assisted with the distribution of the survey, provided feedback on the survey instruments, and reviewed drafts of this report.