Standards on Substance Use Disorders and Mental Health Conditions: Standard I. Judicial leadership in court responses to substance use disorders, mental health conditions, and co-occurring disorders

Standards adopted by the Supreme Judicial Court, acting on the advice of the Working Group on Substance Use and Mental Health.

Table of Contents

Standard I

Every judge should become well-informed about substance use disorders, mental health conditions, and the impact trauma has on these conditions, and should use this information to guide efforts to address these issues.

Commentary

Judges should have general knowledge about the science of substance use disorders, mental health conditions, co-occurring disorders, and the impact trauma has on these conditions, as well as evidence-based treatment and recovery support strategies.

Judges should recognize that substance use disorders, mental health conditions, and co-occurring disorders are chronic and treatable conditions like diabetes or heart disease. Judges should also understand that trauma is highly prevalent among court-involved people and is a contributing factor to both substance use disorders and mental health conditions. Judges should keep in mind that those who suffer from behavioral health conditions often experience great shame and stigma related to their condition, and that stigma is a barrier to seeking assistance. Judges establish the tone and expectations for the courts, and as such it is important for judges to model the use of non-stigmatizing language related to substance use, mental health, and co-occurring disorders.

Judges should be aware of all options for ordering treatment and should address substance use, mental health conditions, and co-occurring disorders as appropriate. See Standard VII. Judges in court sessions in which Probation provides services should engage in continuing dialogue with Probation to maintain up-to-date information about evidence-based treatment options available to parties who come before the court, keeping in mind limitations on ex parte communications if discussing individual cases. See S.J.C. Rule 3:09, Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 2, Rule 2.9 (2016).

Courts strive to utilize trauma-informed practices in all aspects of their work. Ongoing training must emphasize the importance of a trauma-informed approach for individuals who have suffered trauma and ensuring a safe environment for those individuals.

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