Opioid Task Force Calls for Judicial Training, Provides Resources

Courts as Leaders in the Crisis of Addiction

In November, the National Judicial Opioid Task Force released a wide-ranging report examining how courts can best address the ongoing opioid epidemic. The task force was created by the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators.

Among the task force recommendations was more training for judges and court staff on opioids, the impact of addiction on the brain, and evidence-based treatment for all substance use disorders. The recommendation in the report specifically states, “It is critical that judges understand the basics of addiction, treatment, and recovery and how to best understand and address addiction within the justice system, which currently stands as the primary referral source to get individuals to treatment.”

To begin to address the educational need, the NJOTF, in partnership with the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatrists and the National Judicial College, assembled a cadre of expert judicial and medical trainers to provide specialized education for judges in every state and U.S. territory. In November 2019, the NJOTF offered a three-day training that featured top faculty and specialists from the judicial and medical communities. Participants included one state court judge from each state and territory, nominated by that jurisdiction’s chief justice. Participants sat in on expert presentations of the materials, and participated in discussions about the subject matter and effective adult learning techniques. Participants committed to making themselves available to serve as judicial faculty members in their own states and regions during 2020, as a way to deliver training on substance use disorders and reach judges in every state.

NASJE was contracted through the task force to provide follow-up assistance to these judges and to provide a directory to its members of the faculty willing to teach on substance use disorder topics. That directory can be found in the Members Only section of the NASJE website.

In addition to providing the specialized education for judges, other resources were developed by the NJOTF that are beneficial for judges and staff. The primary resource is the Opioid Resource Center for Courts found at https://www.ncsc.org/opioids. This is a comprehensive tool kit for courts and justice professionals to address the addiction crisis. The website provides publications, current best practices, policies, research, statistics and bench cards related to opioids in the courts.

Another resource available for educators is the Opioid Response Network funded through a grant by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA). The network was created to provide education and training at a local level free of charge for specific needs. Requests for assistance can be submitted online.

For more information regarding the NJOTF or its resources, please contact Lee Ann Barnhardt at lbarnhardt@ndcourts.gov.