If a screening questionnaire identifies the likelihood of an alcohol and other drug problem or if a drug test indicates use, a clinical assessment should be administered. Assessments not only confirm the presence of a problem, but also determine the severity of the problem and what services and/or treatment would be most effective (Knight et al., 2003).

An assessment consists of gathering key information and engaging in a process with an individual that enables a health professional to understand the individual’s readiness for change, problem areas, diagnosis, disabilities, and strengths. Unlike screenings, assessments should be administered and interpreted by a trained behavioral health professional, such as a nurse, physician, social worker or psychologist.

Clinical assessments can identify factors that affect alcohol and other drug problems like social support networks, employment history, health, inadequate housing, motivation to change, a history of physical and sexual abuse, and mental illness. Sharing the information gathered from an assessment between the treatment and justice systems is critical. This information can be used by the justice system to ensure appropriate treatment and legal interventions are employed. Assessments, like screenings, should be performed periodically throughout an individual’s involvement in the justice system and throughout treatment to determine if it is effective in reducing the health and associated legal problems, just as a physician would determine if a cancer patient’s chemotherapy was preventing a tumor from metastasizing or if a diabetic’s insulin dosage is appropriate to maintain their blood sugar.

For more information on health and social services — See Section 3