Policies aimed at addressing the high rates of opioid overdose have prioritized increasing access to medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD). Numerous barriers exist to providing MOUD within the criminal justice system and/or to justice-involved populations. The aim of this study was to conduct a scoping review of the peer-reviewed literature on the implementation of MOUD within criminal justice settings and with justice-involved populations.
A systematic search process identified 53 papers that addressed issues pertaining to implementation barriers or facilitators of MOUD within correctional settings or with justice-involved populations; these were coded and qualitatively analyzed for common themes.
Results from the study showed that over half of the papers were published outside of the U.S. (n = 28); the most common study designs were surveys or structured interviews (n = 20) and qualitative interviews/focus groups (n = 18) conducted with correctional or treatment staff and with incarcerated individuals. Four categories of barriers and facilitators were identified: institutional, programmatic, attitudinal, and systemic. Institutional barriers typically limited capacity to provide MOUD to justice-involved individuals, which led to programmatic practices in which MOUD was not implemented following clinical guidelines, often resulting in forcible withdrawal or inadequate treatment.
These programmatic practices commonly led to aversive experiences among justice-involved individuals, who consequently espoused negative attitudes about MOUD and were reluctant to seek treatment with MOUD following their release to the community. Facilitators of MOUD implementation included increased knowledge and information from training interventions and favorable prior experiences with individuals being treated with MOUD among correctional and treatment staff. Few systemic facilitators to implementing MOUD with justice-involved individuals were evident in the literature.
Barriers to implementing MOUD in criminal justice settings and/or with justice-involved populations are pervasive, multi-leveled, and inter-dependent. More work is needed on facilitators of MOUD implementation.
Michael Dennis, PhD
Chestnut Health Systems
Accelerator Supplement, Systematic Review