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Randomized controlled trial of twelve-step volunteer linkage for women with alcohol use disorder leaving jail.
Johnson JE, Schonbrun YC, Anderson B, Timko C, Stein MD. Randomized controlled trial of twelve-step volunteer linkage for women with alcohol use disorder leaving jail. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 2021 Oct 1; 227:109014.
Alcohol use disorder predicts poor health outcomes among women returning to the community from jail. Twelve-step self-help groups are free and accessible to women leaving jail, but reaching out to strangers can pose a barrier. Pilot work suggested that a volunteer-led "warm handoff" may increase post-release twelve-step self-help group attendance.
This randomized trial evaluated the effectiveness of a warm handoff intervention on post-release twelve-step attendance and alcohol use. Participants (189 women with alcohol use disorder) were recruited in jail and followed for 6 months after release. Participants were randomized to: (1) a warm handoff, in which a female twelve-step volunteer met with each woman individually in jail and the same volunteer attended the woman's first twelve-step meeting with her after release; or (2) enhanced standard care (a list of meetings and community resources). Outcomes included days abstinent from alcohol, drinks per drinking day, alcohol-related problems, twelve-step attendance, twelve-step affiliation, network support for abstinence, number of unprotected sexual occasions, and drug using days.
Among intervention participants, only 66 % were aware that the volunteer tried to contact them after jail, only 38 % reported post-jail contact with their volunteers (typically phone), and only four went to meetings with their volunteers post-release. Of 8 post-release outcomes, intervention effects differed on only one (alcohol-related problems).
Although twelve-step self-help group attendance predicted alcohol abstinence, the volunteer-led warm handoff intervention did not increase twelve-step attendance. The twelve-step tradition of Attraction may inhibit the active outreach required to connect women to services after jail release.