Facilitators and barriers to collaboration between drug courts and community-based medication for opioid use disorder providers

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Article, Peer-reviewed

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Introduction: Access to medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) is limited for individuals in drug courts - programs that leverage sanctions for mandatory substance use treatment. Drug courts rely on community agencies to provide MOUD. However, relationships with MOUD agencies, which impact access to treatment, are understudied. We examined barriers and facilitators from drug court staffs' perspectives to understand how to enhance collaborations with MOUD providers.

Methods: Drug court staff (n = 21) from seven courts participated in semi-structured interviews about their experience in collaborating with MOUD providers. Interviews were informed by the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research. Inductive (theory-based) and deductive (ground-up) approaches were used for analyses.

Results: Facilitator and barrier themes centered around the needs and resources of drug court participants, external policies such MOUD access in jails, networking with external agencies, and beliefs about MOUD providers. Drug court staff preferred working with agencies that offered MOUD alongside comprehensive services. Drug courts benefited when jails offered MOUD in-house and facilitated community referrals. Existing relationships with providers and responsive communication eased referrals and served to educate the courts about MOUD. Barriers included logistical limitations (limited hours, few methadone providers) and inadequate communication patterns between providers and drug court staff. A lack of confidence in providers' prescribing practices and concerns around perceived overmedication of participants impacted referrals, interagency collaboration, and further burdened the participants.

Conclusions: Collaboration between drug courts and MOUD providers was driven by patient needs, external policies, communication patterns, and perceptions. Interventions to increase access MOUD for drug court participants will need to incorporate collaboration strategies while considering the unique features of drug courts.

Keywords: Barriers; Drug court; Facilitators; Legal; Medication assisted treatment; Medications for opioid use disorder; Opioid use disorder.