Standards on Substance Use Disorders and Mental Health Conditions: Policy statement

On October 10, 2023, acting on the advice of the Working Group on Substance Use and Mental Health, the Supreme Judicial Court adopted these Standards on Substance Use Disorders and Mental Health Conditions in recognition of recent advances in behavioral health, including substance use disorder diagnosis and treatment, mental health care, and increased recognition of the role of trauma, including childhood trauma, and the complex interplay of co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders.

Table of Contents

SJC policy statement

These advances required the justice system to re-examine its policies and practices to administer a system of justice that acknowledges the impact of such issues on the lives of justice-involved individuals.

The Standards replace and supersede the Massachusetts Standards on Substance Abuse approved by the Supreme Judicial Court in 1998. The 1998 Standards were adopted to enhance the Judiciary’s response to the impact of substance use disorders, mental health conditions, and co-occurring disorders on justice-involved individuals in the Commonwealth, and they reflected efforts by the Supreme Judicial Court Standing Committee on Substance Abuse led by chair Frederic E. Greenman, Esq. and honorary chair SJC Associate Justice Francis P. O’Connor to assist courts in identifying and appropriately responding to individuals with substance use disorders, mental health conditions, and co-occurring disorders utilizing the tools available at that time. The revised Standards build on the work of the Standing Committee by acknowledging advances in treatments for and services available to individuals with substance use disorders, mental health conditions, and co-occurring disorders. The revised Standards also demonstrate the continuing commitment of the Supreme Judicial Court and the Trial Court to enhance the courts’ response to the many justice-involved individuals affected by substance use disorders, mental health conditions, and co-occurring disorders.

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