Fact Sheet: Six Steps to Improve Outcomes for Adults With Co-Occurring Disorders

One of the biggest challenges for treatment courts is working effectively with participants with co-occurring disorders. By definition, persons with the dual diagnosis of both substance use disorder and mental illness have co-occurring disorders. All mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or severe depression, increase the chances of having a drug or alcohol use disorder, leading to a co-occurring disorder.

While some people with profound impairments related to their mental illness will be inappropriately referred to adult drug courts and need other options, these participants will be a small minority of persons with mental illness. The Treatment Court Institute and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) GAINS Center believe that every adult drug court can achieve positive outcomes for persons with co-occurring disorders if the court is committed to doing so. With some creativity and thoughtful planning, most persons with co-occurring disorders can successfully participate in adult drug courts.


Henry J. Steadman, Roger H. Peters, Christine Carpenter, Kim T. Mueser, Norma D. Jaeger, Richard B. Gordon, Carol Fisler, Stephen Goss, Eric Olson, Fred C. Osher, Chanson D. Noether, Carolyn Hardin

Date: 2013