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Trauma and Justice

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Reducing the pervasive, harmful, and costly health impact of violence and trauma by integrating trauma-informed approaches throughout health, behavioral health, and related systems and addressing the behavioral health needs of people involved in or at risk of involvement in the criminal and juvenile justice systems.

Leading Change: A Plan for SAMHSA's Roles and Actions 2011 – 2014 (PDF 778KB)

Read about SAMHSA's Working Definition of Trauma and Principles and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach.


The Administration for Children & Families (ACF), Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and SAMHSA have provided guidance on the integrated use of trauma-focused screening, functional assessments and evidence-based practices (EBPs) to improve the wellbeing of children and families who have experienced trauma.

Read more about this initiative on Secretary Sebelius's blog.

Read the guidance in PDF format on


You are invited to download a groundbreaking report, Trauma-informed Approaches: Federal Activities and Initiatives—the second and highly anticipated Working Document Report of the Federal Partners Committee on Women and Trauma.

Completed on September 30, 2013, the report documents the projects, programs, and initiatives of more than three dozen federal agencies, departments, and offices—one of the largest interagency collaborations in federal government history. With agencies' commitment to implementing gender-responsive, trauma-informed approaches, this report addresses the growing national interest in this issue, the work of the Federal Partners Committee, and the specific progress that participating agencies have made over the past three years (2010-2013), since the Committee's publication of its first report in 2011. This new report, developed with support from SAMHSA's National Center for Trauma-Informed Care, clearly demonstrates the application of trauma-informed approaches across a wide range of settings and systems and encourages other governmental and nongovernmental agencies to implement a cross-sector, interagency, inter-systems' realization, recognition, and response to trauma.

Download the report from the National Institute of Corrections website.


  • Office of Indian Alcohol and Substance Abuse: coordinates tribal substance abuse programs across the federal government as required by the Tribal Law and Order Act (TLOA) of 2010.
  • National Child Traumatic Stress Network exit disclaimer icon - dedicated to improving access to care, treatment, and services for traumatized children and adolescents exposed to traumatic events.
  • National Center on Substance Abuse & Child Welfare - dedicated to improving systems and practice for families with substance abuse disorders who are involved in child welfare and family judicial systems by assisting local, state and tribal agencies.
  • National Center for Trauma Informed Care - dedicated to building awareness of trauma-informed care and promoting the implementation of trauma-informed practices in programs and services.
  • GAINS Center – promoting effective mental health and substance abuse services for people with co-occurring disorders in contact with the justice system.
  • Safe Schools/Healthy Students – a grant-making program designed to prevent violence and substance abuse among our Nation's youth, schools, and communities.
  • Alternatives to Seclusion & Restraint – our efforts to reduce and eliminate the use of seclusion and restraint practices for all age groups in institutional and community-based behavioral health care settings.
  • Disaster Response - practical advice and resources on how to deal with the effects disasters can have on your physical and mental health.
  • Disaster Technical Assistance Center (DTAC) - provide resources to prepare States, territories, and local entities to deliver an effective mental health and substance abuse response during disasters.

Last updated: 04/14/2014

Einstein Expert Panels

Co-occurring Disorders Among Justice System Populations
This report summarizes research presented and discussion that took place at the third Einstein meeting, held in Rockville, Maryland, on September 19 and 20, 2012. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss effective interventions for adults in the criminal justice system who have co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders and often other concurrent conditions. Based on those discussions, this meeting report lays out potential opportunities not only for criminal justice and health practice, but also for policy at all levels of government, as well as research needs.

Medication-Assisted Treatment and the Criminal Justice System
On October 6-7, 2011, 20 experts in the fields of substance abuse, mental health, and criminal justice gathered in Bethesda, Maryland, to discuss the use of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for individuals with substance use disorders in the criminal justice system, and to brainstorm challenges and opportunities for the future of MAT in a rapidly changing policy and funding environment. This document presents the overarching issues discussed during the meeting. The broad and forward-thinking nature of the discussion and resulting consensus points are intended as themes for consideration by criminal justice officials, substance abuse treatment providers, clinical staff, policymakers, legislative bodies, budget authorities, and practitioners working with individuals with substance use and behavioral health disorders who are involved in the criminal justice system.

Did You Know?

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In 2007, the criminal justice system was the largest single source of referrals to the substance abuse treatment system.

SOURCE: The TEDS Annual Report, Aug. 2009