The establishment of CDHS occurred as an outgrowth of funding opportunities initiated by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). In an effort to develop innovative approaches in the treatment of drug abuse, NIDA established its R18 funding mechanism, an initiative that would support 10 large-scale projects across the nation at funding levels of up to $1 million per year for five years. Two of the ten projects were awarded to Professor Inciardi and the University of Delaware. These became the financial basis for the founding of CDHS. And, importantly, because a secondary purpose of the R18 projects was to create new drug abuse treatment slots, for several years in the early 1990s, CDHS was the largest provider of residential drug treatment services for offenders in the State of Delaware.

In 2008, the leadership of CDHS was divided into two Co-Directors, Professors Inciardi and Christy Visher. In 2009, after Inciardi’s passing, Visher became the sole Director. Professor Visher came to the University of Delaware from the Urban Institute with 25 years of experience in policy research on crime and justice issues. Her research interests focus on criminal careers, criminal justice evaluation, communities and crime, violence, and substance abuse. She has published widely on crime and justice topics, including prisoner reentry, crime prevention strategies, the arrest process, youthful offending, incapacitation, and use of drug testing in the criminal justice system. 

Previously, Dr. Visher was Science Advisor to the Director of the National Institute of Justice, the research agency of the U.S. Department of Justice. She began her professional career at the National Academies, Committee on Law and Justice, as a postdoctoral fellow and later, research associate, with the Panel on Criminal Careers. Her research has appeared in a variety of scholarly journals including Criminology, Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, Law & Society Review, Journal of Quantitative Criminology, American Sociological Review, Social Problems, and Justice Quarterly.

Steven M. Martin, former Associate Director of CDHS, now retired Senior Scientist, became associated with CDHS in 1989 as a Scientist and participated in the establishment of the Center. He worked with Professor Inciardi in the development of the NIDA-funded research as well as generating his own portfolio of projects funded by state and federal sources.