The Massachusetts Center of Excellence for Specialty Courts (CoE) was established in 2014 by the Executive Office of the Trial Court (EOTC). The EOTC, in partnership with the Massachusetts Departments of Public Health and Mental Health, solicited bids for the establishment of the Center, and the University of Massachusetts Medical School was the successful bidder. The CoE provides assistance to the EOTC in promulgating best practices in juvenile and adult court specialty sessions, and in implementing best practices in addressing the issues of mental health, substance use disorders and trauma. The CoE also assists the Trial Court in developing and implementing a certification process of Drug Courts.
The CoE seeks to standardize the establishment and operation of specialty courts throughout the state—while taking into account that some practices may need to be adapted to fit local circumstances. In fulfilling its mission, the Center is organized into Cores, which work together, but with each Core taking lead responsibility for specific functions. These Cores include:
The Training Core takes lead responsibility for assisting the Trial Court in promoting best practices/evidence-based specialty court operations, treatment, and recovery support services to meet the needs of specialty court participants. This Core also provides technical assistance and strategies on trainings to support specialty court operations.
The Legal Research/Support Core is responsible for researching case law and new federal and state legislation relevant to specialty courts, and providing case law summaries of relevant court cases to inform the operations of Massachusetts specialty courts. This core also provides summaries and citations of mental health and social science research that impacts services at specialty courts.
The Evaluation Core takes lead responsibility for assisting the EOTC and state agencies via consultation on data analytic and cost-effectiveness projects to guide policy change throughout the Commonwealth as it relates to the Trial Court Specialty Court Strategic Plan.
The Research Core leverages Center funds to apply for additional funding through federal and other grant submissions on behalf of the EOTC. The Research Core worked with the EOTC to successfully obtain three grants from SAMSHA to apply the MISSION Model to the Barnstable Drug Court, to the Chelsea and Quincy Drug Courts, and to the Franklin County Probate and Family Court. In addition, in conjunction with the EOTC and Probation, we obtained a BJA grant to expand services to drug court participants through the Office of Community Corrections. This three year grant also involved fidelity monitoring of criminogenically-based programming.
The Director of each of the Cores reports to the Center Director (Ira K. Packer, Ph.D.) who oversees the operations of the Center and works with the Advisory Committee and the EOTC’s Specialty Courts Administrator, Sheila Casey to develop priorities for the Center, ensure that its goals are met, and provide technical assistance and consultation to aid in the enhancement of Specialty Courts in Massachusetts. In addition, the Director will deploy the resources of the Center to aid the EOTC in developing a certification process for Specialty Courts. The final decision on all matters related to the Center lies with the Chief Justice of the Trial Court, the Honorable Paula M. Carey.