An Evaluation of Virginia's Drug Screening, Assessment, and Treatment Initiative: Preliminary Findings of Implementation and Impact

Julie A. Goetz, Commonwealth of Virginia

During its 1998 and 1999 sessions, Virginia's General Assembly passed sweeping legislation mandating that many offenders, both juvenile and adult, undergo screening and assessment for substance abuse problems. Under the new law, offenders who commit their crimes on or after January 1, 2000, must undergo a substance abuse screening and, if applicable, a comprehensive substance abuse assessment. The purpose of this legislation is to reduce substance abuse and criminal behavior among offenders by enhancing the identification of substance-abusing offenders and their treatment needs and by improving the delivery of substance abuse treatment services within the criminal justice system. Responsibility for conducting screenings and assessments is shared by several state agencies, including the Department of Criminal Justice Services, the Department of Corrections, the Department of Juvenile Justice, and Virginia's Alcohol Safety Action Program.

Virginia's Department of Criminal Justice Services Research Center has been charged with evaluating both the implementation and impact of this legislation across all agencies involved in this initiative. This paper discusses this on-going evaluation process and addresses how well this initiative has been implemented across the commonwealth and within participating agencies during the first several years of existence, preliminary indications of program impact on offenders and the criminal justice system, and recommendations for enhancing continued administration of the screening and assessment process.

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Updated 05/20/2006