Evaluating the effectiveness of problem-solving courts at preventing fatal and non-fatal opioid events: preliminary findings from Indiana

Elizabeth Van Nostrand, Alyssa Johnston, Steven M Albert, Andre L Brown, Jeanine M Buchanich, Brad Ray, Mark S Roberts


Background: Fatal and non-fatal events associated with drug misuse are skyrocketing in most United States jurisdictions, including Indiana. Historically, the role of the judiciary is to arrest, impose sanctions and protect society from harm. Adults arrested for drug abuse in Indiana can be sentenced to 1 of 17 correctional facilities. As an alternative, they may be eligible to participate in a problem-solving court (PSC) programme that refers individuals to treatment as a pretrial diversionary strategy. The aim of the study is to determine which interventions offered by PSCs and correctional facilities impact morbidity and mortality. The study began in 2019 and will end in 2023; therefore, the results in this manuscript are preliminary.

Methods: The study cohort included two populations arrested for drug misuse: (1) adults sentenced to Indianan correctional facilities (1 January 2018 to 30 June 2021) and (2) adults participating in an Indiana PSC programme (1 January 2018 to 30 June 2021). The study used a mixed-methods design that integrated qualitative interviews of deputy wardens, PSC team members and service providers with the following quantitative datasets: sentencing information, emergency department visits, inpatient hospitalization admissions, prescription drug monitoring programme data and death records. The individuals will be followed at 2-week, 4-week, 6-month and 1-year intervals post-release. Difference-in-difference and time-toevent analyses will identify impactful interventions. A model will be created to show the effect of impactful interventions in Indiana counties that do not have PSCs.

Results: Findings are preliminary. There is variability amongst correctional facilities regarding programme eligibility, provided services and provision of medication-assisted treatment. All correctional facilities were severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Conclusion: It is anticipated that the adoption of impactful interventions will lower opioid-related morbidity and mortality rates.

Article Details

Article Type

Original Research



Publication Dates

Accepted: ; Published: .


Van Nostrand E, Johnston A, Albert SM, Brown AL, Buchanich JM, Ray B, Roberts MS. Evaluating the effectiveness of problem-solving courts at preventing fatal and non-fatal opioid events: preliminary findings from Indiana. Drugs Context. 2021;10:2021-8-1. https://doi.org/10.7573/dic.2021-8-1

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