Standards on Substance Abuse: Standard IV. Probation department responsibilities

Standards prepared by the Supreme Judicial Court Standing Committee on Substance Abuse

Table of Contents

Standard IV

The probation department in every court should be responsible for identifying substance abuse, conducting substance abuse screening, performing or arranging and overseeing substance abuse assessments, ensuring that judges are informed about substance abuse assessment results, arranging for appropriate treatment placements, and monitoring compliance with treatment orders. The probation department should be available to perform these functions at any stage of a case.


If a court is to respond effectively to substance abuse when it is a factor in a case, it is critical that every probation officer have training and competence in the field of substance abuse. Probation officers should be immediately available to assist judges in identifying substance abuse issues, conducting screenings, performing or referring parties for substance abuse assessments or for appropriate treatment where advisable, and monitoring compliance with treatment orders.

In addition to training and competence in the field of substance abuse, probation officers should understand mental health issues and the impact of mental illness on the capacity to engage in the substance abuse recovery process. See Commentary to Standard VIII for suggestions about referrals to court clinics or outside vendors for substance abuse assessments in certain cases involving mental illness. Probation officers should also be knowledgeable about payment mechanisms for substance abuse testing and treatment, including MassHealth, private insurance, the Department of Public Health, and the Office of Community Corrections.

The Commissioner of Probation should set standards for ensuring that probation officers receive necessary training in the field of substance abuse and should assume responsibility for ensuring that qualified probation officers are in fact available at each court to assist judges with substance abuse issues. Insofar as possible, probation officers should receive training sufficient to qualify them to conduct substance abuse assessments as provided in Standard VIII, and should be available to conduct such assessments.

Probation officers should be available to assist the court with substance abuse issues at all stages of a matter, including pretrial proceedings, even before probation is imposed.



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