Eight-State Regional Judicial Opioid Initiative Receives $1 Million Federal Grant

October 6, 2017

A first-of-its-kind regional judicial effort by states to combat the opioid epidemic is receiving a $1 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance.

The Regional Judicial Opioid Initiative (RJOI) was formed a year ago to explore ways that state leaders within a region devastated by opioid abuse could work more effectively and collaboratively across disciplines to confront this problem.  The goal of the initiative — now recognized a model — seeks to speed up responses by state courts, children’s services and criminal justice and treatment systems within Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.

“Our regional effort serves as a bridge connecting key leaders and staff from law enforcement, to courts, to treatment providers, to children services and other aid organizations,” Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor said. “This grant will go a long way toward helping close the information, enforcement, services and treatment gaps that have allowed this epidemic to fester and grow.”

The $1 million funding was awarded to the Ohio Supreme Court on behalf of the RJOI to improve coordination and seek “data-driven responses to prescription drug misuse.”  The RJOI has relied on the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) to coordinate the initiative, and will continue to do so through this grant.

“I want to thank the Ohio Supreme Court for its willingness to serve as the RJOI fiscal agent for the administration of this grant,” said Tennessee Judge Duane Slone, RJOI chairman. “This grant will greatly assist our RJOI states, which are at the epicenter of the opioid crisis in our nation, to share, develop, and implement smarter strategies across departments, branches of government, and state lines to address the devastating impact that this crisis is causing our communities from newborns to grandparents. This crisis is overwhelming our state court justice systems. However, I could not agree more with Chief Justice O'Connor that our state courts are uniquely positioned when we are all working together to turn the tide of this crisis."

The RJOI was set up for states to work with each other on a variety of fronts:

  • Provide education, training and technical assistance to prescribers and stakeholders in the criminal justice, treatment, child welfare and related fields regarding the opioid epidemic and the tools to combat it.
  • Share aggregate data from within and across the multi-state region such as those involving criminal justice, child welfare, public health and Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMP) -- to study trends and target areas for intervention.
  • Create pilot programs for evidence-based interventions, and programs in targeted multi-state sites, such as in cities and counties along state borders.

“This grant will be key in helping this region fight the worst drug abuse problem in our nation’s history,” said Chief Justice O’Connor, who convened the RJOI in 2016 in Cincinnati. “The opioid crisis affects not only addicts but their families and children. The fallout is widespread, and state courts are in a unique position to work with others in fighting back.”