Experts at Your Fingertips: The National Drug Court Online Learning System

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Experts at Your Fingertips: The National Drug Court Online Learning System

Experts at Your Fingertips: The National Drug Court Online Learning System

The National Drug Court Online Learning System at www.drugcourtline.org offers free training modules on a wide range of topics by national experts. In this podcast, Valerie Raine and Dennis Reilly, both of the Center for Court Innovation, explain how drug courts can use the system to educate new employees and keep their teams up to date on developments in the field.

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VALERIE RAINE: Methamphetamine is not an issue for eastern drug courts. It's a huge issue for Midwest and Midwestern drug courts. So we have a session on methamphetamine. That won't be applicable or probably of much interest to the Manhattan treatment court, but it will be of enormous interest to treatment courts in Arkansas.

ROB WOLF: I'm Rob Wolf, director of Communications at the Center for Court Innovation. Welcome to another New Thinking podcast. Today we're going to talk about a new tool to help drug court practitioners. And for people who, perhaps, don't know what drug courts are, they work with drug addicted offenders and link them to treatment using rigorous evidence-based practices. Specifically today we're going to talk about the National Drug Court Online Learning System, which is available at www.drugcourtonline.org. It is a new initiative created by staff here at the Center for Court Innovation with the support of the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. I'm speaking with Valerie Raine, Director of Drug Court Programs at the Center for Court Innovation and Dennis Riley, the Deputy Director of Drug Court Programs at the Center for Court Innovation. But rather than have me explain it, I thought maybe you guys could just start off talking about, you know, what is the National Drug Court Online Learning System?

DENNIS RILEY: Thanks, Rob. The National Drug Court Online Learning System has been a long time coming. There’s been plenty of opportunities for remote learning using webinars and conference calls, but this is really the first time we've taken online learning to a new step with drug courts nationally. And the intent is to present information on adult drug courts, which is able to be replicated on a frequent basis, used with individuals for individual learning, and also with teams. The elements of the National Drug Court Online Learning System includes an adult drug court course which has multiple lessons around the critical elements of drug courts. It also includes virtual site visits of rural, urban, and suburban drug court locations as well as practitioner perspectives on some of the most important issues to drug court practitioners.

ROB WOLF: And just so people get a sense of how it works, they visit the website and then they can click on topic choices and what do they get? Videos? PowerPoints?

DENNIS RILEY: Well, first when you go to drugcourtonline.org, you have to create a free account. This is a free system supported by the Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance. Once you've created an account, you receive an email confirming that a password has been created, and you can log directly into the Adult Drug Court course. From there you see a listing of courses and lessons which include video presentations from national experts on various drug court topics. You can also see the virtual site visits, practitioner perspectives, there's also a resource library that includes all the PowerPoint presentations that the experts are providing, as well as written resources on drug court issues.

ROB WOLF: And just a sense of what those topics that they might find address.

DENNIS RILEY: The topics range from psychopharmacology to sanctions and incentives, confidentiality, constitutional issues.

ROB WOLF: So Valerie, let me ask you how did the National Drug Court Online Learning System come about? What was the reason, the motivation for creating it?

VALERIE RAINE: Thanks Rob. Originally, and this goes back several years, as drug courts, established drug courts started experiencing significant turnover in team members—there's a new judge, there's a new prosecutor, there's a new treatment provider. And even in the sort of more luxury days of funding, you couldn't hold a four day training institute every time a team got one new team member. And so the motivation for it originally was to deal with transitional team members, so that they could come onto a team, take these courses, and at least have some kind of foundation in drug court practices, drug court operations, and so forth. And that continues to be one of the systems primary functions. There are, however, other functions, other audiences that are being served as both federal and state budgets suffer severe setbacks. State drug court administrators can not afford to send new or established drug court practitioners to live training. It also takes time away from the operation. People have to travel, they've got to close down the court. The federal agencies who have supported drug court training that was live, and was excellent training, are increasingly concerned about their budgets, and increasingly interested in the potential of remote learning to, if not replace, at least ameliorate the sort of downturn in live training.

ROB WOLF: So it sounds like the initial impetus was there are new people coming on - let's give kind of a primer in how drug courts work. But you're saying now the online learning system really has something for everyone—both the mature practitioner as well as the new arrival to a drug court.

VALERIE RAINE: Exactly. And we intend to keep this a very dynamic site. As new developments emerge, new evidence-based practices are realized and implemented, new changes in the law. We, in fact right now, are concluding the development of a module on veteran's tracks that specifically targets those drug court practitioners who want to set up a veteran’s court or a veteran’s drive.

ROB WOLF: I'll just throw this open to either one of you. Is this the new normal? Can we expect that trainings going forward for drug court practitioners as well as perhaps in other areas—it's gonna be online? Or is this a temporary make-do because budgets are constrained?

VALERIE RAINE: Well, Rob, I think that online learning is certainly part of the future and I think it's here to stay regardless of budgets, because I think it serves a very important need that live training can't, because it's not immediately accessible and accessible 24/7. That said, there is no real replacement for live training. Live training offers interpersonal contact, opportunities to network, opportunities to talk with one another about what you're learning throughout the day, throughout the week. So I certainly hope that live training is very much a part of the future, along with the opportunities and benefits that online learning offers.

DENNIS RILEY: There are some certain benefits to having training online. It's convenient, it's self-paced. When people don't have a lot of time, they can actually consume potions of the content during a lunch break and then restart at any time that they have some additional time. But we don't think that this actually replaces live, in-person training.

ROB WOLF: So this is a national system that anyone in the country can access, but presumably every jurisdiction has unique needs, unique resources, so I wonder how people can take advantage of what the system has to offer, but also perhaps adapt it to their local circumstance.

VALERIE RAINE: First of all, in the virtual site visits we did tours of urban courts, rural courts, a suburban court that's a DWI court, so that when people tour a court, they're not saying oh, well that doesn't apply to us because we're rural. The other area where we've tried to address different needs is, for instance, in the actual presentations. So methamphetamine is not an issue for eastern drug courts. It's a huge issue for Midwest and Midwestern drug courts. So we have a session on methamphetamine. That won't be applicable or probably of much interest to the Manhattan treatment court, but it will be of enormous interest to treatment courts in Arkansas. The third way is that teams may not need to review the entire curriculum that we have offered on the online learning system. They may do some kind of self-assessment or just realize themselves that there are shortcomings in various pieces of their program. They might realize, oh they're getting a lot of false positives on their drug tests, the protocols don't seem to be being followed, you know, we need to sit down as a team and look at the drug testing module and make sure that we're actually following the sort of industry standards when it comes to that. So it can be a—and that could be the same for a session on cultural competency or team members—a whole bunch of new team members come on and they don't really seem to get the concept of addiction as a disease. We need to go look at Steve Hanson talk about the psychopharmacology of addiction, the affect on the brain, and what it actually does to the body.

ROB WOLF: And if people are doing this and they have questions?

DENNIS RILEY: Not only is there technical support, but there's also a content helpline which goes to our desks so we can either identify an answer to a particularly difficult question, or reach out to that expert who gave the presentation to get the answers for people.

ROB WOLF: How many drug courts are out there now?

DENNIS RILEY: Well, there's over 2,700 drug courts across the United States, and typically when I go speak at the National Association of Drug Court Professionals Conference and ask people how long they've been sitting in their drug court, half of the attendees will often raise their hand and say they're new to the drug court team. This is our response to that issue.

ROB WOLF: I know how hard you guys have worked on this system. It looks great, it's amazing, it's got so much going on so I hope people do take advantage of it, and do visit www.drugcourtonline.org. I've been speaking with Valerie Raine, director of Drug Court Programs at the Center for Court Innovation. Thank you, Valerie.

VALERIE RAINE: Thank you Rob, for this opportunity.

ROB WOLF: And I've also been speaking with Dennis Riley, the deputy director of Drug Court Programs at the Center for Court Innovation.

DENNIS RILEY: Thanks, Rob. We look forward to this new future of training.

ROB WOLF: I'm Rob Wolf, director of Communications at the Center for Court Innovation. To listen to other podcasts you can visit our website at www.courtinnovation.org, and you can also listen to our New Thinking podcasts on iTunes.

 

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