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Chief Justices of Six States Sign a Charter to Further the Work of the Regional Judicial Opioid Initiative

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Six state court chief justices recently signed a charter in support of the Regional Opioid Initiative (RJOI), which has developed an action plan with strategies to combat the growing opioid epidemic. The RJOI's founding states include Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. America's opioid epidemic is a nationwide problem, but the impact in this region has been particularly significant, especially in towns and counties along state borders.

The initiative is the result of a Regional Judicial Opioid Summit held in August of 2016, which brought together multi-disciplinary representatives from across the multi-state region. RJOI is the first initiative of its kind where the collective leadership of state courts has come together to address the opioid epidemic at a regional level. The RJOI seeks to leverage local, state and federal partnerships and resources to explore solutions to an epidemic that is not confined by state borders.

While each state within the RJOI has established working groups to combat the opioid epidemic within their respective state, the RJOI focuses on problem-solving at a regional level. A cross- section of all three branches of state and local governments and partners in the private sector must tackle this problem head-on. RJOI stakeholders are comprised of chief justices, state court administrators, judges, executive branch leaders, legislators, behavioral health treatment providers, community supervision agencies, medical experts, prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) managers, regulatory agencies, child welfare representatives and others.

Partners from federal and national organizations, such as the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Casey Family Programs and the National Center for State Courts, also support the initiative.

America's judicial system occupies a critical place in the quest for solutions to the opioid epidemic. It is also unquestioned that judges play an important role in their local communities to convene partners across the branches of government and the operations of government. There are significant issues that can be addressed by the regional approach to combating opioid use, including to reduce the number of opioids in circulation, track the overprescribing and abuse of the drugs, address regional information sharing issues, provide access to effective treatment for individuals and families in the criminal justice system, and ultimately reduce the number of deaths from opioid overdose and incidences of neonatal abstinence syndrome.

The RJOI Action Plan addresses the following areas:

  • PDMP access and regional reciprocity

  • Overdose and reverse tracking

  • Data sharing across multiple systems (e.g., PDMP, medical (including overdose and neonatal abstinence syndrome), criminal justice, child welfare, treatment and public health)

  • Implementation of evidence-based and best practices

  • Advocacy and outreach

  • Training and education

  • Regional treatment standards of care and reciprocity

  • Addiction workforce

  • Recovery Oriented Systems of Care(ROSC)

  • Regional treatment capacity

Through the Action Plan, RJOI will continue to work regionally to improve outcomes for those individuals and families that enter the criminal justice and child welfare systems because of an opioid use disorder. This includes considering what happens when they move across state lines and the interstate challenges that movement presents.

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