Drug courts address issues such as employment and housing but largely miss the opportunity to address important health care issues. The current study examined the prevalence and correlates of chronic medical conditions among a sample of drug court clients who were participating in a clinical trial of an intervention to reduce HIV risk. A total of 256 clients completed a health survey at entry into the drug court program and 9 months post-entry. The baseline health survey included a comprehensive list of chronic medical conditions, and participants were asked to indicate which, if any, they had ever been diagnosed as having. They were also asked to indicate whether or not they were currently receiving treatment for each chronic condition that they endorsed. The follow-up survey was identical to the baseline survey, with the exception that it contained items reflecting (1) whether or not any member of the drug court team engaged in discussion with the client about each of the chronic conditions reported and (2) whether the client received a referral to medical care for endorsed conditions while in the drug court program. Results indicated that over 50% of clients reported at least one chronic condition and 21% reported more than one condition. Among those with chronic conditions, 71% reported having chronic conditions for which they were not currently receiving treatment. Unfortunately, drug court clients reported that the drug court team did little to address these unmet health needs. Findings from this study suggest that clients could benefit if drug court programs began to widen their focus to include addressing health-related issues.
Keywords: Chronic medical condition; Criminal justice; Drug abuse; Drug court; Health care; Substance use disorder.
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