Health Law Research Spotlight: Sara Gordon - Treating the Whole Patient

September 25, 2018

This summer, Prof. Sara Gordon was invited to testify before the Nevada Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights about the impact of policing on people with mental illness. The Committee is studying police practices as they relate to mental health and public health, with special emphasis on the impact on veterans and people of color.  Prof. Gordon was invited to address best practices pertaining to the treatment of individuals with co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders in the criminal justice system. Prof. Gordon testified about drug and other specialty courts, which were originally intended to divert people with criminal charges out of the criminal justice system and allow them to instead receive treatment for an underlying mental illness or substance use disorder. Many of these individuals, however, do not just suffer from a substance use disorder or a mental health disorder; instead, many have a “co-occurring disorder.” Prof. Gordon explained to the Committee the ways in which this segregated specialty court model often fails to provide integrated treatment for the multiple disorders a defendant might present, and how this practice further stigmatizes drug and alcohol use disorders.