Getting your alcohol assessment or alcohol and drug evaluation done remotely online sounds like a great idea, but, how do you know the court will accept the assessment when you are done?
The COVID-19 health crisis of 2020 has greatly impacted the willingness of courts and probation offices to accept an assessment obtained online. Many medical and mental health practitioners have had no choice but to provide remote telehealth services for the safety and health of consumers and courts now recognize that such a service is both available and credible if the practitioner is a legitimate professional. New Directions (a subdivision of Directions Counseling Group) has been successfully providing professional online substance abuse and mental health assessments for courts, employers, and other authorities for the past 12 years. Our system was up and successfully running long before the current pandemic.
This blog will break down what courts and authorities generally look for in a professional evaluation or assessment and how New Directions (NDSBS.com) addresses these concerns.
In summary, there are three main things that matter to the court (or probation officers) when it comes to an alcohol evaluation, drug and alcohol assessment, mental health evaluation, or anger management assessment.
1. Was the assessment provided by a licensed or credentialed professional?
Mental health and substance abuse professionals are licensed, overseen, and regulated by state boards.
If the evaluator you are speaking to does not hold a state license or specific credential to provide the type of assessment or evaluation you need, your evaluation will most likely not be accepted.
Professionals should list their licenses and credentials on their website so you can verify these quickly by searching for the individual on the appropriate state licensing/credentialing website. Professionals are typically licensed in the state where they reside. If the evaluator is licensed in a different state than where you reside, ask if they comply with your state's rules and regulations and if their assessments have been accepted in your state.
If your assessment or evaluation is going to a motor vehicle bureau to reinstate your license, rules can vary on a state-by-state basis. View our state map for acceptance information where you live or call us at 1-800-671-8589. We will be happy to advise you as to whether our service is appropriate for an assessment or evaluation for your state's licensing agency.
2. Does the assessment or evaluation report contain enough clinical detail to indicate that standard professional questionnaires were administered? Can the court conclude a thorough one-on-one interview was conducted?
Courts and employers are accustomed to reading alcohol, drug, and mental health assessments. They generally see two types of reports come across their desk.
One is a simple checklist that ends with a very brief recommendation. This report style often gives the appearance that the evaluator did not spend much time asking you questions in order to arrive at a fair and accurate conclusion about your use of alcohol, use of drugs, or the status of your mental health.
The second type of assessment report is one that is more detailed and written to demonstrate personal awareness of your situation. The report is clearly written in full sentences (human-generated as opposed to software-generated) with first-hand knowledge and demonstrates an understanding of the language used in the court environment. When the reader reviews the report and sees a high-quality product, they typically have no concerns about whether the interview was done in person, over the phone, or by video conference (zoom, Facetime, etc.).
Our assessment service provides a thorough and detailed report to the court or probation officer because it is vital to establishing and maintaining our reputation as licensed professionals.
3. Does the assessment or evaluation report contain a diagnosis (or explanation for why a diagnosis does not exist)? Is there a well-reasoned conclusion using language the court is accustomed to seeing?
Courts, probation officers, employers, and authorities are looking for two main things in the report itself:
- Does the individual being evaluated have a mental health or substance use diagnosis?
- Is there a recommendation from the evaluator that the individual seeks further services to correct a problem or potential problem?
With regard to a diagnosis, the standard guide is the DSM-5 manual. Only state-licensed or credentialed professionals may provide you with a diagnosis from the DSM-5 manual.
If no diagnosis exists, the report should establish why this was concluded. If a diagnosis does exist, the evaluator will make an appropriate recommendation to treat the condition.
Treatment recommendations will vary but they must be logical and supported by the facts and circumstances around the individual’s situation.
On the off chance that an authority or court challenges or denies your assessment, don’t panic. First, ask the authority what the reason is and be sure to take notes on:
- who you spoke with
- the date and time you spoke with them
- their phone number
- their email address
A call from our evaluator may resolve any concerns. If this isn’t possible, ask your evaluator for a refund. Most evaluators don’t offer a refund once the professional service has been provided.
New Directions will refund some or all fees for most unaccepted court-related reports (see all refund terms and conditions) with the exception of child custody-related cases and some other extended assessments such as an assessment to reinstate a professional license (e.g.nurse, pharmacists, attorney, CDL holder)
Looking for more information about assessments? We wrote another blog here with 8 questions to ask before choosing a substance abuse assessment.