Drug Treatment Court Frequently Asked Questions


What is a Drug Treatment Court?

A Drug Treatment Court is a specialty court docket that combines strict judicial oversight as well as specialized and comprehensive treatment, case management, drug testing, and the support of a multidisciplinary team to strengthen recovery from substance abuse and mental illness and eliminate related criminal behavior. 

The first Drug Treatment Court was implemented in Miami-Dade County in Florida in 1989 in response to the epidemic of crack cocaine use.  Judges and prosecutors were seeing the same individuals coming repeatedly through the Courthouse with a variety of charges and an inability to establish stable recovery from their addiction.  Since that time, Drug Treatment Courts and other specialty dockets based on this model have expanded across the United States and in other nations as the benefits of these approaches have grown compared to traditional adjudication and incarceration.

According to the National Institute of Justice1 as of June 30, 2013, there were 1,538 Adult Drug Courts, 448 hybrid Adult Drug and DWI (driving while intoxicated) Courts, 303 Family Drug Courts, 220 Veterans Courts, and 36 Co-Occurring Disorders Courts in operation across the United States.  New courts continue to be implemented.   The State of Maine has five Adult Drug Treatment Courts, three Family Treatment Drug Courts, and one Co-Occurring Disorders and Veterans Court. 

In the more than 25 years since the first Drug Treatment Court, rigorous and high quality research has demonstrated both in Maine and in other states the positive outcomes associated with well-run Drug Treatment Courts (www.nadcp.org/sites/default/files/nadcp/Research%20Update%20on%20Adult%20Drug%20Courts%20-%20NADCP_1.pdf and www.maine.gov/dhhs/samhs/osa/pubs/correct/2006/adultdc06.pdf) Even more, it is now possible to identify what makes a Drug Treatment Court successful.  According to Dr. Douglas Marlowe, Chief of Science, Law, and Policy at the National Drug Court Institute.

We know beyond a reasonable doubt that Drug Courts significantly reduce drug use and crime and do so with substantial cost savings.

Where can I find out more information about Drug Treatment Courts?

The National Institute of Justice, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention have published a summary of useful information on Drug Treatment Courts and updated it in January 2015.  It can be found at: https://ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/238527.pdf.

The National Center for State Courts and its partners have created and maintain an excellent website providing resources for translating research into practice and can be found at: http://research2practice.org/

The National Association of Drug Court Professionals has numerous resources at its website: http://nadcp.org.

The Justice Programs Office at American University has a large clearinghouse on Drug Treatment Courts at: http://www.american.edu/spa/jpo/initiatives/drug-court/index.cfm

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy https://www.whitehouse.gov/ondcp/ is also a resource for information on Drug Treatment Courts.

What kind of treatment is provided for adults and parents in the Drug Treatment Courts?

There are a number of treatment agencies in the state working with the Drug Treatment Courts.  These agencies contract with the state to provide these services and will accept MaineCare, other insurance, and self-pay.  Services provided include outpatient substance abuse treatment, intensive outpatient treatment (IOP), group and individual counseling, mental health counseling, co-occurring disorders counseling, trauma treatment, medication management, anger management, and Batterers' Intervention Programs.

 If an individual needs a higher level of care, there are inpatient, residential, and half-way house programs available across the Sate although the wait time for admission can sometimes be long.  For individuals experiencing acute withdrawal from substances, medical care in the community or in a hospital may be needed.  Many people find self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous to be very helpful.

Best practices in treatment use cognitive-behavioral therapies, which assist clients in changing problematic thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.  There are manual-based treatments such as Differential Substance Abuse Treatment (DSAT) for individuals with substance abuse disorders involved with the criminal justice system http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/samhs/osa/treatment/cj/adult/dsat.htm  and Seeking Safety for individuals with substance abuse disorders and histories of trauma http://www.treatment-innovations.org/seeking-safety.html.  The Matrix Model has been found to be particularly beneficial to individuals who abuse stimulants such as methamphetamine http://www.hazelden.org/web/go/matrix.  Other proven treatments in Maine include Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for mental health disorders https://www.contextualscience.org/act and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for individuals with substance abuse and self-harming behaviors http://behavioraltech.org/resources/whatisdbt.cfm.

What are useful treatments for juveniles?

Although Maine no longer has Juvenile Drug Treatment Courts, there are treatment services throughout the state to help this population.  Cannabis Youth Treatment, a manual-guided outpatient treatment, has been effective with this population.  This approach has been helpful with other drugs of abuse as well http://store.samhsa.gov/list/series?name=Cannabis-Youth-Treatment-Series-CYT-. In general, treatments for juveniles such as Multisystemic Therapy seek to engage families in a constructive manner to promote pro-social changes http://mstservices.com/.

Where can I find treatment services in Maine?

The Maine Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services has a comprehensive listing of treatment services in the state.  This information can be readily accessed at https://portal.maine.gov/provider/provdev.provider_search.main_page

The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration maintains a website identifying evidence-based treatments.  This site can be found at: http://www.nrepp.samhsa.gov/.

Where can I find legal assistance?

Anyone seeking to participate in a Drug Treatment Court must be represented by an attorney.  Please refer to: http://www.courts.maine.gov/citizen_help/lawyers_legal_help.html for assistance in this regard.

Who are the partners working with the Maine Judicial Branch?

One of the Maine Judicial Branch's partners is the Maine Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services.  Its website: http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/samhs/osa/ contains past evaluations of our Drug Treatment Courts as well as information on accessing treatment services in the state.

The Judicial Branch works closely with district attorneys, the Office of the Attorney General, the defense bar, county sheriffs and other law enforcement, Adult Community Corrections (probation and parole) of the Department of Corrections, the Office of Child and Family Services of the Department of Health and Human Services, Maine Pretrial Services (http://mainepretrial.org/programs.asp), local treatment provider agencies, and the Co-Occurring Collaborative Serving Maine.

Who do I contact to find out more about Drug Treatment Courts in Maine?

The Coordinator of Specialty Dockets and Grants at the Administrative Office of the Courts, specialtydockets@courts.maine.gov.