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BJA Visiting Fellows Program: Tara Kunkel

Tara KunkelTara Kunkel, M.S.W., is a Principal Court Management Consultant at the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) and the current BJA Visiting Fellow for Prescription Drug Abuse. At NCSC, Ms. Kunkel primarily works on pretrial, probation, and problem-solving court issues. Prior to joining NCSC in 2011, Ms. Kunkel worked for 14 years as a former Drug Court Administrator, criminal justice planner, and probation officer. She has worked extensively with the judiciary, elected officials, and policymakers to improve justice policies and practices, and to expand collaborative court diversion and intervention efforts. Ms. Kunkel is skilled in court administration, including training and process analysis and has broad experience in drug policy issues. She has also facilitated cross-system information sharing and collaborations between justice and behavioral health partners. She has served in numerous community organizations centered on child/family needs, advocacy, and court processes—including work as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for over 11 years. Ms. Kunkel has held numerous state-level leadership roles including serving as President of the Virginia Drug Court Association and being appointed by the Chief Justice of the Virginia Supreme Court to the Statewide Drug Treatment Court Advisory Board. She graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a Masters in Social Work and received her B.A. in Psychology from the University of Virginia.

Fellowship Overview:
Prescription drug and opioid abuse is a significant national public health epidemic. The number and rate of deaths, emergency room visits and treatment admissions related to non-medical use of prescription drugs have increased steadily over time. This fellowship is designed to expand the use of state prescription drug monitoring programs and other data to inform prescription drug abuse prevention, treatment, and intervention efforts through:

  • Supporting local and state collaborative efforts between public health and justice professionals to use PDMP data and other data sources to inform prevention, treatment, and enforcement efforts.
  • Documenting successful data sharing initiatives taking place at the local and state level.
  • Creating tools for the field to address the issue of prescription drug abuse and diversion.