County Executive Falk Unveils New Initiative for Offenders with Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Problems
September 30, 2002
Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, joined by Sheriff Gary Hamblin and District Attorney Brian Blanchard, today announced that her 2003 Executive Budget will include funds to begin a major new initiative to provide intensive treatment for offenders with alcohol and other drug abuse (AODA) problems.
“This initiative has three goals. To reduce the numbers of repeat offenders in the criminal justice system. To increase public safety. And, to turn lives around,” said Falk. “If we’re successful, the result will reduce jail overcrowding, lower costs, and save lives.”
In August, Falk released a consultant’s report that analyzed the Dane County Jail’s inmate population and made recommendations to reduce recidivism by changing how the county handles inmates who have alcohol and other drug abuse (AODA) problems.
Her Executive Budget, to be submitted to the County Board October 1, includes a pilot project to treat 50 people over a year in voluntary intensive alcohol and other drug treatment while under the supervision of the Sheriff’s Department.
“The Sheriff, District Attorney, our Courts system and the county Human Services department will be working together to make this succeed,” said Falk.
Sheriff Hamblin said, “Doing a pilot project first is the right way to go, to see if this treatment plan works. We worked together on designing the concept of the pilot, and I look forward to having it as option in managing our inmate population. If we can cut down on repeat offenders, it will improve public safety.”
District Attorney Blanchard said, “Money we invest now in substance abuse treatment and aftercare pays off in reduced criminal activity and less spending later on in police responses and prosecutions. I strongly support expanding Drug Court and providing more personal accountability and proactive treatment for inmates addicted to drugs or alcohol."
Eligible participants who agree to participate will receive day treatment, case management and aftercare services to address significant, long-term AODA issues, with the goal of preventing future criminal activity.
The total cost of the pilot program is $611,000, plus $84,000 for an expansion of the county’s successful Drug Court program. Through reallocating staff, re-negotiating contracts with vendors of treatment services, and revenue generated by medical assistance eligibility, the net cost of the pilot program will be $313,950. This does not incorporate any of the dollar savings that will be realized by saved jail beds, which cost $60.42 per day.
The first change is that, under the proposed new medical and mental health jail coverage contract, all inmates who enter the jail would have an intake screening done by a healthcare professional to determine if substance abuse or mental health problems may be present.
The Sheriff’s Office, with input from a Chemical Abuse Specialist, would determine who would be referred to the AODA pilot program based on the AODA/mental health assessment coupled with information on inmate risk, criminal charges, and behavior while incarcerated.
Not all inmates who abuse alcohol or drugs would be eligible. The target population will be inmates who have committed offenses resulting from substance abuse, and who are sentenced with Huber release privileges.
Persons convicted of homicide or serious injury to others by intoxicated use of a vehicle along with State of Wisconsin probation and parole holds would not be eligible for the program. Program participation is voluntary.
If the inmate is determined to be eligible, he or she will participate in 30 days of intensive AODA day treatment. Participants will return to the jail or Ferris Center in the evening. Day treatment is a medically monitored, non-residential substance abuse treatment service that consists of regularly scheduled sessions such as individual and
group counseling and case management, provided under the supervision of a physician.
If the treatment is progressing successfully, the day treatment would be followed by six to nine months of after-care, including attendance at support group sessions and meetings with an AODA counselor. During this time, the inmate will be in home detention with electronic monitoring.
A case manager would help arrange and monitor a range of appropriate services to the inmate and his or her family in a coordinated manner. This may include help with job placement, medical services, or day care.
The day treatment and after-care services would be provided through contracts with outside vendors of AODA services. Dane County currently works with vendors who provide this type of treatment for both offender and non-offender Dane County residents.
A staff team will evaluate the program to see if it works, and if it should be expanded.
In addition, Falk is expanding the county’s Drug Court to handle an additional 15 people in 2003. Drug Court was started in Dane County in 1996. As of June 30, 2002, there have been 244 Drug Court graduates. This is a 69% successful completion rate. The average rate for Drug Courts nationally is 48%.
As of 2000, the recidivism rate among Drug Court graduates was 22%, instead of 65% among offenders who started but did not complete the program.
Although the overall crime rate in Dane County is decreasing, drunk driving charges are increasing in Dane County. For example, between 1998 and 2000 there was an increase of 67% in the referrals for second or greater “Operating While Intoxicated” (OWI) offenses to the district attorney’s office.
In 2001 there were 797 alcohol-related crashes in Dane County, resulting in 20 deaths and 565 people injured. Preliminary statistics indicate that in the first six months of 2002, there have been 371 alcohol related crashes in Dane County, resulting in seven people being killed, and 220 injured.
About half of the inmates serving sentences in the Dane County Jail County Jail had one or more Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) charges.
Other charges, such as possession of drugs (THC, cocaine, and drug paraphernalia), battery such as domestic abuse, disorderly conduct, shoplifting and theft, suggest inmates may have a substance abuse problem.
Nationally, about 60 to 80% of inmates in county jails suffer from alcohol and other drug addiction, the Zimmerman study reports. Research shows that treatment combined with after-care and sanctions can reduce recidivism by 20% or more. A University of California study found that every $1 spent on alcohol and other drug abuse saves society $11.54 on health care and criminal justice costs and lost productivity for business.
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Sharyn Wisniewski, (608) 267-8823