Publication Date



The International Journal on Drug Policy






BACKGROUND: With the current opioid epidemic impacting well over half of all counties across the United States, initiatives that encourage interagency collaboration between first responder organizations appear necessary to comprehensively address this crisis. Police, fire, and emergency medical services (EMS) are in a unique position to identify substance users and provide necessary resources to initiate treatment, yet there is not sufficient evidence of joint collaborative programs between law enforcement/first responders and healthcare providers.

METHODS: In this scoping review we examine the current state of joint criminal justice and healthcare interventions, specifically, opioid and substance use pre-arrest initiatives via emergency first responders and police officers. We relied on data from the last 10 years across three major databases to assess the extent of criminal justice (CJ) and healthcare collaborations as a response to individuals with opioid use disorder (OUD). We specifically focused on interventional programs between criminal justice first responders (pre-arrest) and healthcare providers where specific outcomes were documented.

RESULTS: We identified only a small number (6) of studies involving interventions that met this criteria, suggesting very limited study of joint interagency collaboration between law enforcement first responders and healthcare providers. Most had small samples, none were in the southern states, and all but one were initiated within the last 5 years.

CONCLUSIONS: Although studies describing joint efforts of early intercept criminal justice responses and healthcare interventions were few, existing studies suggest that such programs were effective at improving treatment referral and retention outcomes. Greater resources are needed to encourage criminal justice and healthcare collaboration and policies, making it easier to share data, refer patients, and coordinate care for individuals with OUD.


Analgesics, Opioid, Criminal Law, Delivery of Health Care, Humans, Opioid Epidemic, Opioid-Related Disorders, United States

Published Open-Access