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Comprehensive Screening & Assessment

In the justice system, the use of validated and standardized screening and assessment instruments is imperative to identify offenders who have alcohol and substance dependence and mental health issues. Without the accurate identification of the presence of these disorders, practitioners miss an opportunity to address an underlying cause of offending and, subsequently, reduce future recidivism.

Screening is the first step in the process of determining whether a DUI offender should be referred for treatment.

At this stage, offenders who do not have substance or mental health issues are identified and those who may have issues can be sent for a more in-depth assessment. Essentially, screening is a way to strategically target limited resources by separating offenders into different categories - i.e., those who do not have an alcohol, drug, or mental health problem and those who likely do have an alcohol or mental health problem. The screening process in and of itself can also serve as a brief intervention as it requires the individual to begin to think about their use patterns and whether they are problematic. This can have therapeutic benefits and start moving offenders towards readiness for change.

After the screening process is completed, offenders who show signs of alcohol, drug, or mental health issues can be referred for an assessment.

Assessments can also identify the following:

  • A history of DUI behavior (e.g., multiple DUI convictions, high BAC levels, BAC test refusals, driver license suspensions, failures to appear, and convictions for other violations such as reckless driving, etc.);
  • A history of other criminal behavior not associated with DUI;
  • Any co-occurring disorders (e.g., alcohol dependence and a mental health disorder);
  • An offender’s readiness for change; and,
  • The type of intervention that is best suited to address an individual’s risk level and treatment needs.

Ideally, an assessment would occur at the beginning of the process (such as during the pre-trial stage). The results of the assessment can then be used to inform sentencing decisions, case management plans, supervision levels, and treatment referrals/plans. It is important to note that assessments can be repeated at multiple junctures throughout an offender’s involvement in the criminal justice system to identify progress and to inform changes to existing plans as needed. believes that effective screening and assessment for alcohol, drugs, and mental health issues are essential for DUI offenders. Absent the identification and treatment of substance use and co-occurring disorders, long-term behavior change is unlikely for these offenders. Read our complete policy position here.

We believe so strongly in the need for effective assessment that we partnered with the Division on Addiction, Cambridge Health Alliance, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, to expand and test a Computerized Assessment and Referral System (CARS) for use with a structured diagnostic mental health assessment in DUI intervention and treatment settings.

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