Health care providers say legal system collaboration key to address substance use, mental health
Health care providers are advocating for more collaboration with lawyers, judges and others in the legal system to provide support for people with substance use and mental health issues. Providers said building community resources into the legal system could support treatment and recovery and help divert patients from jails and prisons.
Dr. Ryan Sarver, a provider at Schneck Medical Center, spoke at the Rural Justice and Public Health Professionals Summit. He said there needs to be better integration between the legal and health systems to help patients access resources.
“The key is to find out who your stakeholders are in the community,” Sarver said. “Bring them to the table, say, ‘We have this problem. What are ways in which other counties, other places — what are they doing to solve this? And what is working for them?’ And then come and bring that to where you're at.”
He said looking at these issues as a moral concern, rather than a medical concern, misses the connections between lack of access to treatment and crime.
“They don't have those resources,” Sarver said. “Because they don't have those resources, they don't have money. Because they don't have money, they're more likely to commit crimes to be able to sustain themselves.”
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The providers pointed to legal professionals to address additional challenges. Joel Makin, a program manager for substance use treatment at Parkview Health, said legal professionals can advocate for “affordable and accessible health care options and treatment programs.”
“The legal community can support individuals in recovery by addressing legal challenges such as criminal records and legal consequences related to substance use,” Makin said.
The panelists also advocated for more trauma-informed approaches to care.
Abigail is our health reporter. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.