Strengthening Families and CommunitiesExpanding Access to Health Care

Substance Use and Mental Health

It’s by now a truism that the criminal justice system and jails in particular are a dumping ground for people with substance use and mental health problems. Virtually no corner of the system is untouched, and much of Vera’s work with our government partners around the country addresses the challenges associated with identifying mental health needs and responding appropriately.

That expansive body of work includes a project to address the challenges public defenders face when representing clients with a mental health problem, with the goal of improving representation and case outcomes. Another explores systemic changes, as opposed to reactive measures, that correctional facilities can take to prevent the widespread problem of suicide and other serious self-harming behavior among incarcerated people. And we produced a groundbreaking study of the positive effects of reforming New York's infamous Rockefeller drug laws. We also work with law enforcement to ensure that harm reduction strategies are implemented as a response to substance use, and that best practices that divert people with mental illness from the justice system to the health system are supported. 

Related Work

Serving Safely

The National Initiative to Enhance Policing for Persons with Mental Illnesses and Developmental Disabilities

Request AssistanceServing Safely is a national initiative designed to improve interactions between police and persons affected by mental illnesses and developmental disabilities. The initiative offers free remote and on-site assistance to police departments and prosecutors’ offices through training, evaluation, and guidance specific to your agency’...

Project
  • Rebecca Neusteter
    Rebecca Neusteter
Project

Corrections-Based Responses to the Opioid Epidemic

Lessons from New York State's Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution Program

As the opioid crisis has swept the nation, more and more states are equipping their first responders and police officers with naloxone, an overdose antidote that reverses opioid overdoses and can be administered by bystanders with minimal training. This report details the efforts of New York State to implement an overdose education and naloxone dis...

Publication
  • Vedan Anthony-North, Leah Pope, Stephanie Pottinger, Izzy Sederbaum
March 22, 2018
Publication

Tougher Drug Law Enforcement Does Not Increase Public Safety

States That Have Eased Enforcement in Recent Years Are Moving in the Right Direction

Police also express limited support for this level of enforcement. A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found that more than two-thirds (68 percent) of police surveyed believed that marijuana use should be allowed for recreational or medical use. Eighty-four percent of the public surveyed believed that marijuana use should be allowed in cert...

Blog Post
  • Jim Parsons
    Jim Parsons
  • Karina Schroeder
    Karina Schroeder
January 05, 2018
Blog Post

Minimizing Harm

Public Health and Justice System Responses to Drug Use and the Opioid Crisis

For the Record Evidence Brief SeriesHow government and communities should respond to drug use is a perennial question that has gained a renewed sense of urgency in the face of the current opioid overdose crisis, and annual deaths from overdose have grown more than ninefold since 1980. In addition to the thousands of lives claimed, thousands more Am...

Publication
  • Jim Parsons, Scarlet Neath
December 13, 2017
Publication

A Path to Recovery

Treating Opioid Use in West Virginia's Criminal Justice System

In the United States, a disproportionate number of people who come into contact with the criminal justice system suffer from opioid use disorder. Key to confronting the opioid epidemic and related deaths is expanding access to a range of treatment options, including all forms of medication-assisted treatment (MAT). This report looks at how one stat...

Publication
  • Ram Subramanian, Alison Shames
November 20, 2017
Publication