PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICE
SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT
John Adams Courthouse
One Pemberton Square
Boston, Massachusetts 02108
Jennifer Donahue/Erika Gully-Santiago
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 23, 2024
Trial Court Awarded Federal Grant For Substance Use Disorder Treatment
Three-year federal grant totals $1 million
BOSTON, MA – Trial Court Chief Justice Heidi E. Brieger and Trial Court Administrator Thomas G. Ambrosino today announced that the Trial Court has received a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice that will be used to pilot an initiative in Chicopee District Court and Holyoke District Court to connect court-involved individuals with substance use disorders to treatment and recovery services.
The Chicopee and Holyoke Access to Treatment and Services (CHATS) Project will allow each court to partner with Gándara Health, a treatment provider in western Massachusetts. Beginning in the spring of 2024, the grant will fund the full-time services of a Peer Recovery Coach and a Recovery Support Coordinator from Gándara in both courts daily who will link participants to health and social service providers in their communities.
“We are pleased that the Department of Justice has awarded this grant to the Trial Court to further advance our efforts to address substance use disorder, which is one of the underlying issues that leads to criminal justice involvement,” said Trial Court Chief Justice Heidi Brieger.
The goal of the CHATS Project is to enhance public safety by reducing recidivism, opioid use, and overdose deaths. Participation is voluntary and is available to anyone appearing before the courts on a criminal charge or a civil commitment for a substance use disorder. The CHATS Project differs from specialty courts, where treatment or services typically begin post-conviction. The project is part of an effort to expand access to treatment and services at every stage of court proceedings, beginning at an individual’s first court appearance.
“This grant will expand ongoing efforts to connect court-involved individuals to treatment for substance use disorders starting on the first day they appear in court,” said Holyoke District Court First Justice William Hadley. “By improving outcomes for the many individuals who come before our courts with drug addiction, we will increase public safety and benefit the entire community.”
“This grant permits us to innovate, to facilitate connections, and to do more to address the difficult problem of addiction facing so many individuals appearing in the Chicopee District Court,” said Chicopee District Court First Justice Bethzaida Sanabria-Vega.
UMass School of Public Health and Health Sciences will evaluate the project and will collect data on participation, engagement, and outcomes to determine whether these efforts should be replicated and implemented in other courts. The Trial Court will work with UMass Professor Elizabeth Evans to evaluate program implementation and outcomes.
“These district courts are engaged in innovative programming that has the potential to save lives and improve public safety,” said Professor Evans. “We’ll learn whether this program is effective and whether it should expand.”