Health and well‐being outcomes for drug‐dependent offenders on the NSW Drug Court programme
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Given the centrality of drug treatment to the drug court framework, the proliferation of drug courts in the United States, and their emergence more recently in Australia, it is surprising that such little attention has been given to assessing their therapeutic effect. This evaluation aimed to assess the health and well-being of drug-dependent offenders diverted to the New South Wales Drug Court, and monitor changes in their health and well-being throughout 12 months of programme participation. The study consisted of baseline interviews with 202 offenders accepted into the programme between February 1999 and April 2000, and follow-up interview at 4, 8 and 12 months with participants who remained on the programme. Health and well-being was assessed at each follow-up using the Short Form-36 Health Survey (SF-36) the OTI social functioning scale, and self-reported spending as a proxy for illicit drug use. The health of male Drug Court participants prior to commencing the programme was significantly poorer than Australian population norms. The results provided evidence of significant and sustained improvements in health and well-being for the 51 participants who competed each follow-up interview. Furthermore, significant improvements were found for offenders who remained on the programme for at least 4 months but less than 12 months. However, the positive health outcomes are limited by the low programme retention rate. These results indicate that significant health outcomes can be achieved for at least some heavily drug-dependent, recidivist offenders through the drug court model.