Person-Centered Care and Recovery through Treatment Courts with Steve Hanson
During this interview from RISE23, hear from Steve Hanson, Senior Treatment Consultant at All Rise.
During the interview, Mr. Hanson speaks about the role treatment courts have in recovery from substance use. He also speaks to the evolution of treatment and what treatment courts are doing to address service and support needs of individuals.
KAREN FRIEDMAN: I'm here today with Steve. Steve, could you please introduce yourself to our audience?
STEVE HANSON: Sure. I'm Steve Hanson. I'm currently serving as a Senior Treatment Consultant for All Rise, an organization formerly known as the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. I've been in that role for about six months. Prior to that, I served as the Associate Commissioner for Treatment and Courts and Criminal Justice for the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports. I've been with the state for over 20 years. I've been in the field for 41 years. And I've been involved in drug courts going back to 1995 when the first drug court in New York State opened in my hometown of Rochester.
KAREN FRIEDMAN: Nice. Well then, you are more than qualified to answer this question for me. What role do you see as treatment courts have in recovery from substance use?
STEVE HANSON: Well, I think that we know that there's a population of folks who get involved in criminal activity that is driven by their dependency on different substances. And that they're, you know—it's not just a focus on they possess a substance or they’re low-level sales, but they’re committing crimes against persons, against property that are fairly significant, but all of that is driven by their use of substances and maybe some other issues like mental health, history of trauma, etc.
And what drug courts offer is the opportunity to keep folks engaged. And one of the key elements of being successful in treatment is staying in treatment. And many people go for a while and drop out. But somebody who's participating in a drug court is going to be there for, you know, like 12 to 18, sometimes 24 months based on their needs, and they're in—keep engaged in treatment, and the longer they keep engaged, the better their chance of entering into a good, full recovery.
KAREN FRIEDMAN: What excites or inspires you the most about the future of drug treatment courts?
STEVE HANSON: Well, I think that, like, the treatment is evolving. And we're moving from a focus of what we call program-centered care, we have a program you need to do what we want you to do and that's it, to really understanding that everybody's different and they have all different needs in terms of what their service needs are, what kind of supports they're going to need to be successful in the community. And as drug courts are evolving and adopting to saying, "Yup. How do we address somebody who, in addition to their use of methamphetamine or opioids has a history of trauma that really impacts what's going on for them or perhaps they have a mental health condition?" And being able to bring these resources together and focus on the individual can really be a key piece.
Now one of the things that we're struggling with right now is a crisis in the overdose deaths in the country. And drug courts can play a key role in that. New York has had the Buffalo Opioid Court model for a number of years, which focused on engaging people in treatment right away, not waiting until down the road they got engaged into a drug court, but getting them in the morning after they were arrested and saying, "Okay, we want to get you to treatment.” Because it's important that, if you're in treatment or you have access to medications as appropriate, it's going to prevent overdose. And we don't want people to die. We want to keep a focus on alive is good, let's help every people.
KAREN FRIEDMAN: Right. Why are treatment courts so essential for providing justice in communities nationwide?
STEVE HANSON: Well, I think, you know, going back again, there's a population of people who commit crimes that have a substance dependency. And when you look at the data, if you look at prison populations, jail populations, 70 to 80% of them have significant drug problems.
And so being able to use a court program, which gives you a diversion from having to go to prison or having to go to jail—but really focuses on keeping you in the community, getting you connected, reconnecting with your family, taking care of your obligations, being accountable for the things that you need to be accountable for—can really be helpful in turning somebody around. And not only helping them, but then helping the community by being safer through the reduction of crime. Help families by reintegrating them, reconnecting them, parents being responsible for taking care of their children, children not having to be removed from homes because the parents aren't taking care of them properly, etc. All those things are a great benefit to the society, in addition to what the individual gets.
KAREN FRIEDMAN: What does it look like when we center clients in our approach to care?
STEVE HANSON: Well, I think this is where you hear the, you know, like the term “patient-centered care” versus program-centered. And I've been in the field a long time and it was, "It's our way or the highway. This is what you do." Everybody does the same thing. We didn't pay attention to anybody's individual differences. I remember like my first year, I had three different patients, a 16-year-old who smoked marijuana and was fighting with his mom, a woman who had four DWIs and was in her 50s, and a 37-year-old who was using opioids. I gave them the same treatment plan. Three totally different people, three totally different sets of needs, but that's what we did. Everybody got the same. And what we experienced was not everybody did well. Some people did well, some people did really poorly.
But as we started to say, okay—you know, I'm really tall. I know one size doesn't fit all. So as we try and focus on what does this person need, how do we meet them? Maybe their program looks a little different than somebody else's. And we would see this in a mental health court. Yeah. We normally expect it would take 12 months, but this population, we're probably looking at 18 because it might take slower to get to the stabilization and where they really feel comfortable and strong in their recovery to be on their own.
So being there to be responsive, assessing the person's needs, reassessing as changes happen—as things often do, relationships change, job situations change. How do you handle the stress of those things? So how do we reflect that and focus on the strengths of the person versus the problems that they had? So what do we build on? Treatment used to say, "Well, we got to tear you down before we can build you up." Well, we hopefully don't say that anymore. We say, "Let's look at what you're good at and let's see how we can build that and expand that into other areas where you weren't so good before."
And I believe that everybody is capable of getting into recovery. Their recovery might look different than some. Like some folks are going to have medications, some folks are going to be just abstinence. But people can get to a point where, you know, we now recognize that the many paths to recovery in drug courts can really help people there provide that intervention that so many people need.
Opinions or points of view expressed in these recordings represent those of the speakers and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. Any commercial products and manufacturers discussed in these recordings are presented for informational purposes only and do not constitute product approval or endorsement by the U.S. Department of Justice.