Ross Silverman

The way laws impact addictions focus of researcher's work

Laws, as they are created, interpreted, and implemented, significantly affect the ability of people who have substance use disorders to flourish. However, most legal research focuses on state or federal law with little research examining differences across counties and municipalities.

Ross Silverman, professor at the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health, and his team are addressing that issue by creating a community-engaged project, made up of an interdisciplinary team of experts in law, policy, public health, healthcare, social work, implementation science, and program analysis, as well as public health and law students, to look at the effect local, state and national laws have on addictions. The research is part of IU's Responding to the Addictions Crisis Grand Challenge initiative. 

Silverman and his team have been collecting data from all of the state’s 92 counties in an effort to analyze information about the characteristics of local, state and national law and policies; compare laws across jurisdictions and evaluate the implementation of laws, policies and programs and their impact on professional practices, the health of Hoosiers and addictions crisis response.

Once Silverman’s team has collected all of the local laws—nearly half of Indiana counties do not have the information online — his team will organize, code, analyze and map those laws which will then be made available to the public. Silverman’s team also is documenting their ordinance acquisition process with a goal of developing groundbreaking research publications on their methods, as well as a process to help them regularly update the database of local ordinances.

The second phase of Silverman’s project will focus on evaluating the employees and practices of courts related to medication assisted treatment. More than one-third of justice-involved adults are people with substance use disorder. People with substance use disorder who are leaving the criminal justice system are up to 120 times more likely to die from an overdose than the general public.

Problem-solving courts offer an opportunity to move those people away from incarceration toward treatment and recovery. However, little is known about how court personnel and judges receive education concerning medication assisted treatment or the education’s impact on their knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and practices.

Silverman’s team is partnering with Wayne State University, Kansas University, the Midwest and Northeast Regional Judicial Opioid Initiatives, the National Association of Drug Court Professionals and the National Center for State Supreme Courts to explore these questions with the hope of providing data that can better inform the way court personnel receive information about medication assisted treatment, thereby helping Hoosiers with a substance use disorder move toward treatment and recovery, instead of incarceration.