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A growing body of research has identified the fact that repeat DUI offenders often suffer from a number of psychiatric disorders (Shaffer et al., 2007), suggesting that untreated mental health issues likely contribute to the persisting rate of DUI. However, treatment for DUI offenders most commonly consists of only alcohol education and some form of alcohol treatment. Effective relapse prevention is essential to making progress toward eliminating hardcore drunk driving behavior.

In 2011 The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility partnered with the Division on Addictions at the Cambridge Health Alliance, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, providing a four year research grant for the development and testing of a computerized clinical report generator – the Computerized Assessment and Referral System (CARS), for use in DUI intervention and treatment settings.

During Year 1 and 2 of the project, principal researchers, Dr. Howard Shaffer and Dr. Sarah Nelson, developed CARS modules based on the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI) including depression, mania, panic disorder, social phobia, general anxiety disorder, alcohol use, drug use, post-traumatic stress disorder, and a personality disorder screener to name a few.

As Year 2 of the project comes to an end, a usability trial of the CARS tool is underway at four treatment programs and one court program in Massachusetts. The usability testing phase includes multiple surveys among counselors and DUI clients including a preliminary survey, personalized utilization plan, three month CARS usage with weekly evaluations of usability, client surveys of their CARS experience, and a collection of information about CARS usage. Results from the Year 2 usability trial will result in modifications to the CARS tool to prepare for the next phase of the project – CARS implementation and usability testing at DUI program sites. Data from the usability tests will be available in spring 2013.

Testing the usability and efficacy of the CARS tool in these initial studies in the New England area will allow for the development of a tool that can be used by DUI programs across the country and, eventually, internationally. The CARS tool uses the CIDI and collaboration with the team that developed this assessment will allow for the offering of a tool that utilizes an internationally-validated assessment, increasing its appeal.