Realizing that drug courts serve only a small percentage of those who suffer from substance use disorders in the criminal justice system, the Tennessee Recovery Oriented Compliance Strategy (TN ROCS) was founded in 2013 by Circuit Court Judge O. Duane Slone to work with drug offenders with opioid use disorders (OUDs) who did not qualify for his drug recovery court. Upon convening a multidisciplinary team of stakeholders, including a prosecutor, public defender, and treatment professional, the program relies on the practices and principles of drug court, requires fewer resources, and is based on three components: (1) obtaining an accurate screening and assessment and providing a referral to the proper level of treatment for an appropriate period of time; (2) frequent accountability through appropriate levels of supervision; and (3) the knowledge that the judge has power over the participant’s freedom.
All TN ROCS participants are paired with criminal justice liaisons (CJLs) who draft behavioral health treatment plans, which may include intensive outpatient therapy or medication-based treatment, for them. The CJL essentially performs triage as the participant first enters the program, provides a rapid connection to treatment and other services, and provides continuing support and advocacy throughout the participant’s time in the program. Next, once the participant has a treatment plan, he or she is held accountable to that plan by a community supervision officer (CSO). The participant meets with the CSO on weekly basis so that the CSO can monitor compliance with his or her treatment plan and attendance at a mandatory drug prevention class. The CSO also performs scheduled and random drug testing on the participant. Finally, the participant regularly appears before Judge Slone, where he reviews whether the participant is complying with his or her treatment and adjusts the terms and conditions of the participant’s supervision, if necessary. Support and encouragement from the judge are critical to the success of the participant.
TN ROCS uses medication-based treatment for OUD (e.g., methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone), and touts a high success rate. Between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2019, some of its successes included: (1) Thirty-four out of 34 pregnancies resulted in healthy births; (2) Thirty out of the 34 mothers retained custody of their children; (3) Two thirds of the TN ROCS “graduates” did not recidivate; (4) There was a significant reduction in the county’s jail population; and (5) The governor incorporated TN ROCS into the state’s plan to combat the opioid crisis.
To learn more about TN ROCS, logon to https://www.tncourts.gov/news/2018/10/01/recovery-oriented-compliance-strategy-latest-tool-opioid-fight, and coming soon, www.tjoi.org.