We recently sat down with Nisha Wilson, Director of Criminal Justice Services at the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to discuss the program in the state of OK. The following is a summary of the interview, which goes into detail about implementing and utilizing the BHI-MV within the drug courts.

How many treatment agencies are in the state of OK that provide treatment services to drug court participants?

There are over 40 treatment agencies in the state which provide treatment services to Oklahoma’s adult drug courts.  There are 77 counties in the state of Oklahoma, with drug courts in 73 counties.

How is the Oklahoma Drug Court different from other states?

Oklahoma’s Drug Court system is managed very differently than many other states.  The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, the state’s mental health and substance abuse treatment authority, receives legislative appropriations as well as competitive federal grants to fund and oversee the operations of the state’s drug court programs.  Our project was funded through a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance.  The ODMHSAS then contracts with local treatment agencies to provide services to drug court participants.

What issues were you facing prior to implementing the BHI-MV?

We were looking for a way to more consistently assess for co-occurring treatment needs at the beginning of the program.  When these needs aren’t identified upfront, participant difficulties can sometimes be interpreted simply as program non-compliance.  However, with a more comprehensive assessment upfront, treatment interventions are able to more adequately meet the participant’s needs.  The BHI-MV format is beneficial from a state management perspective, allowing us more access to individual, county, and state-wide assessment data.

What was the process like implementing the BHI-MV?

We are currently about 50% through the implementation process.  Working with the BHI-MV/ASI-MV team allowed us to provide multiple webinars to introduce the tool which provided for a cost effective method of broad, state-wide communication.    During the implementation process, we identified some existing rules which created a barrier for some treatment agencies.  These rules have since been amended so we are working on implementation with the remaining treatment agencies.

What changes have you seen so far as a result of implementing the BHI-MV?  

In my opinion, by implementing the BHI-MV, we’re now able to mainstream an assessment that’s going to readily assess the issues being faced, whether it’s gambling, tobacco, etc.  After the assessment process, issues are addressed at the onset which allows for better treatment planning and the ability to partner with other agencies to assist with services across the continuum of substance abuse and mental health.  Without this data, we wouldn’t be able to realize the need for certain partnerships.

As part of the drug court model, treatment agencies provide frequent reports to other members of the drug court team.  In addition to the clinical benefits, the standardized report forms save time over handwriting the assessments by using the templated reports provided in the BHI-MV.

About the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services:

Adult drug court programs provide eligible, non-violent, felony offenders the opportunity to participate in a highly structure, court supervised treatment program in lieu of incarceration.  Since the inception of the first program in 1995, Oklahoma’s adult drug court programs have expanded to 73 of the 77 counties in the state.  

Drug courts continue to be a smart investment. The average annual cost of incarceration in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections is $19,000 per person, compared with the average annual per person cost for drug court participation of $5,000.  Drug court graduate re-incarceration rates of 23.5% when compared with rates of those whom successfully complete standard probation, 38.2%, and released inmates, 54.3%, are further proof that Oklahoma Drug Courts work.

The success of drug court has also supported the development of other innovative diversionary court programs such as juvenile drug courts, mental health courts, family courts, DUI dockets, and veteran’s dockets across the state.

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