This brief reviews activities undertaken by states to expand the use of telehealth for justice-involved individuals with substance use disorders (SUDs) during the COVID-19 pandemic, shares lessons learned, and highlights considerations for governors wishing to leverage telehealth services to increase access to SUD treatment for those involved in the justice system.
This brief reviews activities undertaken by states to expand the use of telehealth for justice-involved individuals with SUDs during the COVID-19 pandemic, shares lessons learned, and highlights considerations for governors who wish to leverage telehealth services to increase access to SUD treatment for those involved in the justice system. Justice-involved individuals have historically had difficulties accessing treatment for SUDs and co-occurring behavioral health disorders. These difficulties can be mitigated by the benefits provided by telehealth, which include increased access to care for patients, reduced stigma, improved safety for staff, cost reductions for correctional institutions, and overall improvements to quality of care. In recent years, governors and state correctional and health officials have made great strides to improve access to SUD treatment for justice-involved individuals—both those within correctional facilities and on community supervision. Lessons learned for expanding these programs include ensuring access to evidence-based medication and treatment, emphasizing collaboration among justice systems and health partners, developing tailored treatment plans, reducing treatment barriers upon release, staff training, and developing robust program evaluation plans. States that have implemented telehealth services for justice-involved populations recognize several advantages for using them for treatment. States also identified several challenges with using telehealth services. States may consider these challenges and lessons learned when implementing or expanding telehealth programs for justice-involved individuals with SUDs.
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