Opening Statements

Training for drug court professionals goes online

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With more than 2,600 drug courts across the country and more on the way, the need to train judges, lawyers and court professionals is greater than ever. It’s also expensive.

The New York City-based Center for Court Innovation, with support from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, has stepped in to help by offering free training through its new National Drug Court Online Learning System.

“Times have changed and there have been huge budget cuts, and now the federal government does not want to spend too much on this,” says Valerie Raine, director of drug treatment court projects at the Center for Court Innovation. Most drug court professionals learn on the job or through conferences and training sessions provided by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. Many states also have associations and conferences that provide in-person training. But that’s changing.

“Remote learning has become a much more common method of learning and training,” says Raine, who worked at New York City’s first drug court in Brooklyn and helped create the online learning system. “They can go to this site on their own time and at their own pace and get a pretty good handle on drug court.”

The center’s online training offerings include video lessons from national experts on topics like addiction, treatment options, sentencing and cultural competency. There are also interviews with practitioners and guided tours of drug courts, as well as a resource library of documents and reference tools.

“Our need is huge,” says Mary Kay Hudson, director of court services for the Indiana Judicial Center, which oversees the state’s 33 drug courts, as well as other problem-solving courts such as veterans courts. “Having access to a program like this is really useful.”

Hudson says the number of problem-solving courts in Indiana has increased by 66 percent over the past two years. “There is a constant need for information. One of the barriers to training is time,” she says. “The convenience factor of the online training is that it reduces that barrier. I’ve seen some of the training videos, and what I’ve watched is very well-done.”

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