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NIDA/NDRI Meeting Underscores the Need for Cooperation Between Public Health & Correctional Systems

March 15-17, 2000

It is increasingly clear that providing drug abuse treatment services to drug addicted offenders, either while during incarceration or in the community, can have significant benefits in terms of reducing drug use and criminal behavior and improving social functioning. So the question is no longer would drug treatment do any good, but what should we be doing to move to the next level of understanding to effectively blend the public health and correctional systems. That was the principal charge from Dr. Alan Leshner, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to the participants this at the Drug Abuse in the Correctional System Meeting held March 15-17 in Bethesda, Maryland.

This meeting, which was cosponsored by NIDA and the National Development and Research Institutes, Inc. (NDRI) was the Second Annual Research to Practice Series undertaken by both Institutes. More than 180 researchers, practitioners, policy makers, consumer advocates and consumers came together for 3 to learn about and discuss issues critical to drug abuse treatment in the correctional system. During his keynote address, Dr. Leshner emphasized that the train that is the blending public health and public safety is already running and all of us need to find a way to accelerate research and make those questions more relevant to the practice community. He reiterated that NIDA is finding ways to support that kind of research and getting it done.

At the opening plenary, a panel of practitioners and a panel of researchers were asked to answer two questions for the participants: What is working and what do we need to know to take the next quantum step in treating drug abusing offenders? One of the most important issues that emerged from these presentations was the need for greater collaboration between the researcher, the treatment program, and the correctional system in order to answer key questions about treatment in correctional settings including: (1) the role of the judge, the physician, the warden, the correctional officer, treatment professional, and the inmate in the treatment process; (2) how to effectively train and support staff; (3) how do we build bridges between across different systems (treatment, corrections, research); (4) how do we target offenders and services to improve effectiveness; (5) how do we address both the criminal lifestyle and drug using lifestyle; (6) what will be the role of self-help programs in the recovery process; and (7) how can we improve the dissemination of information to the public, to the legislatures, and to those who work with drug abusing offenders about what we know does work and what doesn't work, along with cost-savings and reoffending analysis.

These two panels provided an important context for participants to learn about the research that is currently underway and to talk with some of the top researchers in the field of drug abuse and corrections. Subsequent panels were: Treating Women and Youth; Integrating Treatment and Primary Care; Treating Individuals with Special Needs; Current Developments in Research Methods; and Understanding the Continuum of Care (Diversion/Incarceration/Aftercare). A complete transcript with slides will be available on the NIDA and NDRI websites this fall. The 3rd Annual NIDA/NDRI Research to Practice Conference: Addressing the Needs of Adolescent Drug Abusers, will be held in March of 2001 in Bethesda, Maryland. Look for notices in December at

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