Penn Bioethics Seminar | Evan Anderson, JD, PhD
12:00pm - 1:00pm • 1402 Blockley Hall
Court Systems as Health Systems and Cops as Docs: Early Lessons from Local Police and Court Diversion Programs
The U.S. has experienced a dramatic increase in opioid-related harms. The epidemic has been attributed to over-prescribing, potent and low-cost heroin, proliferation of fentanyl as a heroin contaminant or substitute, despair, and the persistence of high-risk public injection among people who inject drugs (PWID) with unstable housing. Given the complexity of the underlying causes, interventions have been numerous in their design and diverse in their targets, ranging from naloxone distribution in libraries to broadening access to substitution therapy. Many interventions have occurred in the criminal justice system. Prisons and jails are increasingly providing medication-assisted therapy. There is a proliferation of problem-solving courts, which aim to divert individuals to treatment rather than punishment. And in some cities, including Philadelphia, police officers can now divert individuals directly to a treatment facility during an incident that would otherwise result in an arrest. While these innovations reflect the practical realities of the moment, they also point to a set of interesting and important questions about the role of the criminal justice system in the promotion of population health. This talk will begin by reviewing some of the conceptual similarities and differences between health systems and criminal justice systems. The talk will then focus on some empirical research about the response to the opioid-related harms within the local criminal justice system.
Dr. Anderson is a Senior Lecturer at the UPenn School of Nursing (SON) where he teaches health policy. He also teaches Public Health Law and Social Epidemiology in the UPenn Master of Public Health Program. He recently explored interactions with the criminal justice system for individuals who subsequently experienced fatal overdose. He is currently evaluating the implementation of police-assisted diversion in Philadelphia. He was formerly the Senior Legal Fellow at the RWJF National Program Office for Public Health Law Research.