A Prospective Comparative Analysis of an Opioid Intervention Court versus a Traditional Drug Court on Health Outcomes: A Mixed Methods Approach


Melissa Hordes
Sarahmona Przybyla


drug court, substance use treatment, opioid use


Objective: In the United States, there is substantial intersectionality between the opioid epidemic and the criminal justice system. Individuals in the criminal justice system have high rates of opioid use and are at significant risk of opioid overdose death. Providing opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment is an effective strategy to prevent opioid overdoses. In 2017, the Buffalo City Court in Buffalo, New York established an opioid intervention court (OIC), a novel adaptation of a traditional drug court for individuals with OUD. Dissenting from the structure of many traditional drug courts, OIC delivers immediate and intensive OUD treatment. Adaptations of this court have been replicated throughout the country. Despite their growing popularity, little research is available on their effectiveness.

Methods: This research proposal seeks to determine whether an OIC is more effective in reducing opioid overdose rates and substance use behaviors when compared to a traditional drug court. Additionally, it will compare the barriers and facilitators to OUD treatment that OIC and traditional drug court present. To assess these research aims, we will enroll 150 adults from the Buffalo OIC (n=75) and the Buffalo City traditional drug court (n=75) to participate in a mixed methods research study.

Discussion: Results from this proposed research study will inform other court systems who are seeking to address the growing need for OUD treatment in the criminal justice system. If OICs demonstrate better outcomes and fewer barriers to substance use treatment, court systems may be encouraged to establish their own OICs.


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