The tagline of the Office of National Drug Control Policy is "Relying on science, research and evidence to improve public health and safety in America." A review of the ONDCP's drug control strategy report released this week by the Government Accountability Office, however, suggests there's a lack of evidence in at least one area of the agency's program.
"While agencies make efforts to ensure that grantees implement interventions that have proven to be effective," the report reads, "we found that HHS, DOJ, and Education agency officials and the other experts we spoke with reported various challenges in identifying interventions that are proven effective."
More from that particular section:
Agency officials and experts told us that local-level data for assessing the effectiveness of interventions often are limited. For example, local data are often not available because of the high cost and intensive resources necessary for collection. If they are available, there are often gaps in the data—for example, data that are collected only every other year. Further, limited population-level information exits for smaller populations that may bear a disproportionate burden of drug abuse-related morbidity and mortality (i.e., American Indian and Alaska Native populations). In addition, officials said that determining the impact of a prevention intervention can be a challenge because it is often difficult to quantify something that did not happen—such as a youth’s decision not to use illicit drugs—because of a preventive measure
The report also states the DOJ in particular "give[s] preference to applicants that adopt interventions for their programs that include features that have been determined to be effective." Gives preference? Shouldn't the disbursement of grants and other funds be 100 percent dependent on a firm's ability to show that it can, you know, actually help drug users?
If there's one industry the DOJ is quite confident about shoveling money to it's drug courts:
DOJ gives Drug Court Program grant applicants greater consideration during review of grant applications when they demonstrate that a program’s design is consistent with seven evidence-based program design features, which OJP considers to be indicators of an effective program. For example, evidence-based program design features include screening and assessment as well as monitoring activities. More specifically, the screening and assessment feature requires that applicants demonstrate an ability to screen promptly and systematically for all offenders potentially eligible for the drug court, identify the agency that will conduct this screening, and detail the procedures that will be used for screening. Monitoring involves the inclusion of a comprehensive plan to monitor drug court participants using random drug testing and community supervision, disseminate results efficiently to the drug court team, and immediately respond to noncompliance according to established program requirements.
Fun fact: The only way a drug court can receive federal funding is if it locks up people who fail their piss tests or miss appointments. Courts that use other means for encouraging compliance--like San Francisco, which requires people who test dirty their first time to write essays--aren't eligible for federal funds.