Juvenile Justice-Translational Research on Interventions for Adolescents in the Legal System (JJ-TRIALS): A cluster randomized trial targeting system-wide improvement in substance use services

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Background: The purpose of this paper is to describe the Juvenile Justice-Translational Research on Interventions for Adolescents in the Legal System (JJ-TRIALS) study, a cooperative implementation science initiative involving the National Institute on Drug Abuse, six research centers, a coordinating center, and Juvenile Justice Partners representing seven US states. While the pooling of resources across centers enables a robust implementation study design involving 36 juvenile justice agencies and their behavioral health partner agencies, co-producing a study protocol that has potential to advance implementation science, meets the needs of all constituencies (funding agency, researchers, partners, study sites), and can be implemented with fidelity across the cooperative can be challenging. This paper describes (a) the study background and rationale, including the juvenile justice context and best practices for substance use disorders, (b) the selection and use of an implementation science framework to guide study design and inform selection of implementation components, and (c) the specific study design elements, including research questions, implementation interventions, measurement, and analytic plan. Methods/design: The JJ-TRIALS primary study uses a head-to-head cluster randomized trial with a phased rollout to evaluate the differential effectiveness of two conditions (Core and Enhanced) in 36 sites located in seven states. A Core strategy for promoting change is compared to an Enhanced strategy that incorporates all core strategies plus active facilitation. Target outcomes include improvements in evidence-based screening, assessment, and linkage to substance use treatment. Discussion: Contributions to implementation science are discussed as well as challenges associated with designing and deploying a complex, collaborative project. Trial registration:NCT02672150.

Original languageEnglish
Article number57
JournalImplementation Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 29 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank the following members of the JJ-TRIALS Cooperative for their assistance and participation in protocol development activities: Gene Brody, Margaret Cawood, Redonna Chandler, Richard Dembo, Patti Donohue, Lori Ducharme, Kelly Hammersley, Veronica Koontz, James Maccarone, Chris Scott, Faye Taxman, Greg Aarons, Connie Baird-Thomas, Diana Bowser, C. Hendricks Brown, Kate Elkington, Barbara Estrada, Leah Hamilton, Phil Harris, Matthew Hiller, Aaron Hogue, Ingrid Johnson, Kathryn McCollister, Cori Miles, Kate Moritz, Jon Morgenstern, Alexis Nager, Elise Ozbardakci, Jennifer Pankow, Jessica Sales, Michele Staton-Tindall, Anne Spaulding, Doris Weiland, Wayne Welsh, Jennifer Wood, and Marsha Zibalese-Crawford. This study was funded under the JJ-TRIALS cooperative agreement, funded at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The authors gratefully acknowledge the collaborative contributions of NIDA and support from the following grant awards: Chestnut Health Systems (U01DA036221); Columbia University (U01DA036226); Emory University (U01DA036233); Mississippi State University (U01DA036176); Temple University (U01DA036225); Texas Christian University (U01DA036224); and University of Kentucky (U01DA036158). NIDA Science Officer on this project is Tisha Wiley. The contents of this publication are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the NIDA, NIH, or the participating universities or JJ systems.

Funding Information:
The Juvenile Justice—Translational Research on Interventions for Adolescents in the Legal System (JJ-TRIALS) is a cooperative research initiative funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Six research centers (RCs: Columbia University, Emory University, Mississippi State University, Temple University, Texas Christian University, University of Kentucky) and one coordinating center (CC: Chestnut Health Systems) were funded in July 2013. Each RC recruited one or more JJ Partners to participate in all planning and implementation activities from the outset. The JJ-TRIALS steering committee (SC: composed of principal investigators, JJ Partners, and a NIDA project scientist) was charged by NIDA with developing a study protocol that achieved two goals: (1) improving the delivery of evidence-based practices (EBPs) in community-based JJ settings and (2) advancing implementation science.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Knight et al.


  • Adolescent
  • Cluster randomized trial
  • Data-driven decision-making
  • Evidence-based practice implementation
  • Interagency collaboration
  • Justice-involved youth
  • Juvenile justice
  • Substance use
  • System change
  • Treatment services

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Health Informatics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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