Drug Addiction Treatment
By BrightView
Published: June 23, 2023
Updated: June 3, 2024

To highlight the potential and promising relationships that can be made between the judicial system and outpatient addiction treatment centers, BrightView hosted “From Crisis to Collaboration: How the Justice System and Addiction Treatment Providers Are Tackling Overdose Deaths”.

The virtual forum brought together Emily Harsh, BrightView’s Director of Justice System Outreach, Jena Cropper, our Vice President of Laboratory Services, and John Inman, Associate General Counsel for BrightView, and former law enforcement officer.


Incarceration & SUD

An overwhelming 85% of the incarcerated population has an active substance use disorder (SUD) or is incarcerated for a crime involving drugs or drug use, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Adding to that, nearly 75% of individuals recently released from incarceration with SUD report relapse within the first 90 days. In fact, within the two weeks following their release, incarcerated individuals in state prisons are 129 times more likely to die from an overdose compared to the public.


Meet Steve

Emily showed how the average person who falls into the throws of addiction does so through no fault of their own. Steve, our “sample patient” shows the scenario that millions of people with an SUD face. In Steve’s case, his arrests for drug possession lead to short-term incarceration and release without treatment or treatment referral.

This leads to his subsequent relapse and re-arrest, and so the cycle continues. Our panelists did a remarkable job driving home the point that Steve represents millions of Americans who are stuck in this cycle of addiction and how the judicial system can prevent or promote this outcome.

85% of the incarcerated population has an active SUD or is incarcerated for a crime involving drugs or drug use.

— National Institute on Drug Abuse

Understanding Buprenorphine & Combating Stigma

Our panelists explained the benefits of medication assisted treatment (MAT) since efficiently addressing a patient’s physiologic needs is critical to attaining recovery.  Buprenorphine, one of the most common medications used in recovery works by tightly binding and partially activating opioid receptors, mitigating withdrawal and cravings (partial agonist); therefore, its high binding capacity blocks other opioids if consumed, thus preventing/limiting their effect (partial antagonist).

MAT simply does not exist at the rate it is needed.  Also, the stigma towards M.A.T. increases barriers to stability in recovery for many individuals, as these same people often do not disclose having a substance use problem to their primary care providers.  Research suggests that negative attitudes of healthcare professionals towards patients with substance use disorders lead to poor communication, diminished therapeutic alliance, and diagnostic overshadowing.


Drug Testing: Taking the Subjective Out of the Objective

Jena Cropper, BrightView’s Vice President of Laboratory Services provided valuable insight on the importance of toxicology testing.  BrightView’s “In House Gold Standard” procedures provide us with toxicology confirmation reports detecting over 60 metabolites allowing us to get a much more accurate snapshot than a rapid result would allow.

This way, we can implement and continue to strive towards a medically and scientifically sound approach when helping our patients rather than a punitive “you’re in trouble for having a positive screen for an illicit substance” approach. The overall goal of having state-of-the-art laboratory services for our patients is to provide objective, factual results to interpret with our patients to ensure we are tackling their full range of addiction.


How We Can Work Together

Throughout the entire presentation, our speakers focused on the idea that entering treatment and re-entering treatment should be encouraged and celebrated – regardless of whether it’s someone’s first attempt or fifteenth attempt. John Inman, BrightView’s Associate General Counsel, discussed the importance of having that warm hand-off opportunity for people who continuously find themselves “in trouble with the law”.

Together, if justice systems and treatment centers within a community can strive towards warm handoffs and constant communication thereafter, effective treatment is more likely attainable for a person re-entering society. A person with the disease of addiction has suffered enough and reprimanding them for relapse or discharging them for relapsing is not effective.  An increase in a higher level of care should always remain an ongoing discussion, not just an ultimatum.


Steve Turns His Life Around

Wrapping up the forum, we look at Steve on a different path – one that involves addiction treatment. After his initial incarceration for drug charges, instead of falling back into old habits, let’s say he is referred to local outpatient care before being released. Steve heads to BrightView later that day and is seen and assessed within 4 hours of his initial referral.

Flash forward, Steve is attending monthly doctor’s appointments, bi-weekly therapy sessions with his counselor and weekly group counseling sessions to assist with accountability. He is back to working full time and has graduated from drug court and paid off his court fines – the cycle is broken.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen in such an upwards trajectory for most people, but it does happen for a lot of them. Recovery is real and it is happening every single day.

For the full virtual forum, view the recording below.

How to Help Anyone with an SUD

With evidence-based behavioral health and medical interventions, recovery isn’t just possible, it’s probable. To learn more about how we can help you, call us today at 888.501.9865.