Leading in Treatment Services

The Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia (PSA) is in the forefront for recognizing the connection between drug use and crime. By integrating supervision and treatment, PSA creates a seamless system for reasonably assuring public safety. Each of PSA’s sanction-based substance use disorder treatment programs includes a system of sanctions and incentives designed to motivate compliant behavior and reduce drug use. Further, each program features the use of a treatment plan that guides case managers in tailoring and modifying therapeutic interventions specifically for a population involved in the criminal justice system.

PSA also recognizes that substance use disorders sometimes coexist with mental health problems, and that an effective drug treatment program also must be able to treat those with co-occurring mental health disorders. A key aspect of PSA’s programming is the integration of services for persons with substance use and mental health disorders. All too often, these defendants cycle through the system without receiving the attention that their problems require.

PSA provides critical supervision and case management services for defendants with severe and persistent mental health disorders, as well as for those with co-occurring mental illness and substance use disorders. These defendants are linked with community-based mental health treatment through the D.C. Department of Behavioral Health. PSA case managers have mental health expertise and/or specialized training in working effectively with mentally ill and dually diagnosed defendants.

PSA is unusual in that it operates its own in-house treatment programs with on-site certified addiction counselors. This includes the Superior Court Drug Intervention Program, better known as Drug Court PSA makes substance disorder and mental health needs assessment a priority first step for defendants, followed by making appropriate referrals. In a national survey of pretrial release programs, 42% report using a separate assessment tool for substance use disorder needs and only 27% for mental health needs; 50% report having implemented special procedures to supervise defendants with substance use disorders; and 44% for mentally ill defendants.[i]

[i] The 2009 Pretrial Release Programs Survey, Pretrial Justice Institute, Washington, DC, 2009.