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Key DFM Personnel

Randall Brown, MD – Principal Investigator
Megan Zuelsdorff – Researcher


Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health


A drug court treatment program (DCTP) is provided in Dane County, and in 697 other county jurisdictions in the United States1, as an alternative to incarceration for drug offenders with substance abuse disorders. The program involves: (1) participation in community-based substance abuse treatment, (2) individual case management, (3) regular urine drug screening, (4) a system of sanctions and rewards to motivate continued drug treatment and drug court program compliance, and (5) regularly scheduled contact with the drug court judge for assessment of progress and program compliance; imposition of sanctions; and determination of eligibility for graduation.


This study develops and tests theoretical models using a secondary data set to answer the research question: “To what extent do client characteristics affect the likelihood of completing substance abuse treatment programming in Dane County Drug Court Treatment Program (DCTP) participants?”


The study includes all those who graduated or terminated from the Dane County drug court treatment program over 8 years, N ~ 700. Client characteristics such as age, race, gender, marital status, employment status, residence, insurance status, criminal history and substance of abuse, severity of substance use disorder, substance abuse treatment program, number of sanctions imposed during drug court participation, number of contacts with the drug court judge, all are thought to affect the likelihood of completing the treatment program.

While much prior research concerning drug courts has focused on law and order outcomes such as criminal recidivism, this project focuses primarily on health-related outcomes. Specifically, the main dependent variable in the model is the probability of completing court mandated substance abuse treatment programs.

Significance: The impact of drug courts on individual longer-term health consequences depends as much on facilitating compliance with treatment as on reducing criminal activity. As such, this research will contribute to the health care research literature concerning substance abuse treatment as well as to the literature on criminal justice outcomes.