Magazine article Corrections Forum

Centralized Substance Abuse Assessment Project-Iowa Medical and Classification Center

Magazine article Corrections Forum

Centralized Substance Abuse Assessment Project-Iowa Medical and Classification Center

Article excerpt

Many offenders entering the prison system have drug or alcohol problems. Although all of Iowa's correctional facilities provide some level of substance abuse treatment, no actual substance abuse assessments were made in the past. Because of this, recommendations for treatment were not always made in a consistent manner. Certain programs had long waiting lists, whereas others were not used to capacity. Inmates with very different treatment needs were often referred to the same program.

In 1993-94, a research and demonstration project undertaken by the Iowa Department of Corrections (DOC); the Iowa Department of Public Health, Division of Substance Abuse and Health Promotion (IDSA) and Division of Criminal and Juvenile Justice Planning (CJJP); and the Mid-Eastern Council on Chemical Abuse (MECCA) led to the establishment of a centralized substance abuse assessment unit at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center (IMCC). Iowa employs a centralized assessment model in determining placement and treatment needs of inmates entering the prison system. Upon arrival at IMCC, inmates undergo medical, educational, and psycho logical testing as well as a reception interview. The information gathered is used to determine the inmates' appropriate risk level and appropriate treatment modalities.

Goals and Objectives

The three primary goals of the centralized assessment project are to assist in decreasing criminal recidivism and substance abuse; expedite inmates' movement through the institutional system, allowing the most advantageous use of treatment resources; and evaluate the effectiveness of referrals made by the assessment unit.

Objectives of the project include:

Assessing all inmates entering IMCC with a 10-year or less sentence.

Referring inmates to the appropriate level of substance abuse treatment.

Updating each inmate's treatment summary record on the DOC automated information system to enable institutional classification teams and the parole board to make appropriate decisions.

Providing training for institutional treatment staff on how to use the assessment instrument. Maintaining communication to ensure that the assessment unit is making appropriate clinical and placement decisions. Establishing a database to collect demographic information and outcome effectiveness information.

Implementing the program's database.

Producing data reports summarizing treatment needs, referrals, and types of treatment recommended.

Assisting DOC in determining future types of treatment programming.

Both institutional and community treatment providers review data reports to determine the need for treatment revision or development.

Program Components

MECCA developed its assessment tool using the criteria contained in the IDSA's standardized assessment form, but revised it to reflect the characteristics of both the prison population and the treatment available in the institutions. To understand treatment needs and resources, MECCA and IMCC staff visited all treatment programs in Iowa correctional facilities. These visits helped to open lines of communication between assessment staff and treatment staff. Close supervision of the assessment process has ensured consistent treatment recommendations. The key elements of the project are reception, evaluation, classification, and placement. During the reception period, inmates are interviewed by the IMCC assessment staff, who compile substance abuse evaluations according to standards set forth by IDSA. These evaluations form the basis for recommending the most appropriate treatment for inmates during their time in the institution and upon release. Treatment recommendations are considered by the classification manager in light of the risk posed by the inmate and all information from the inmate's psychological and educational profiles. The inmate is then placed in the most appropriate institution for the risk and needs indicated. …

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