Drug court funds granted
Marinette County judge says money will be enough to get the programs in place
Wednesday, February 05, 2014 6:00 PM
MARINETTE - Marinette County will still be able to create Treatment Alternatives and Diversion (TAD) and Drug Court programs despite receiving less than half the funds it sought from the state.
The office of Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced Tuesday the county will only receive $124,502 to help attack the area's escalating heroin and opiate problems.
The county applied last Oct. 17 for $285,349 and Health and Human Services Director Robin Elsner announced Jan. 17 to fellow members of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee that the county had been awarded a grant, but that the amount had to be disclosed later by the attorney general's office.
"The amount of money is substantially less than we asked for," said Branch 2 Circuit Court Judge Jim Morrison, who will preside over the drug court and who is a member of the committee. "But we're optimistic, we will make this work.
"There are adequate resources. We're not like drunken sailors, we're not going to spend money that we don't have. There are all sorts of ways to see to it that we get this done. We're going to use the people's money as well as we can to make this work."
The attorney general's office said a 15-member peer review panel assessed proposals from 36 applicants and that 12 counties and one Indian tribe were selected to received funding for TAD and drug court programs.
"I'm not disappointed," Morrison said. "I think we did fine. Obviously you'd like more."
Morrison said the part of the grant to Marinette County used to fund the drug court will require 20 or 25 percent in matching funds.
He said "we're not going to have a problem getting the match done" because some of the county's treatment resources can qualify to make up for that amount.
The judge said the county has some gaps to fill to operate the two programs, some of which it has already secured through other resources.
He said he has already obtained funds to reduce training costs.
"The National Drug Institute grant that I applied for on my own is going to get us extremely valuable resources in training that we would have had to provide out of the grant money," Morrison said. "While I can't put an actual dollar amount on that it's in the 10's of thousands of dollars.
"The National Drug Institute is sending two trainers here April 8, 9 and 10. They're going to totally design our drug court. Then they are going to fly us sometime later this year after we get our drug court running and view another drug court operating and to meet with our compatriots."
He said about another $1,000 in training costs will be offset by the Wisconsin Office of Judicial Education covering his expenses to attend a state meeting.
Another valuable resource, Morrison said, will be a day treatment center that has been approved by the Department of Justice.
"I think we'll have a credible and sensible drug court up and running sometime during 2014," he said. "With the design and training we're realistically looking to try to get people into the court by this summer."
Morrison stressed the drug court and TAD programs will be rigorous.
"There's not going to be any screwing around here," he said. "The drug court and TAD programs will be hard and there will be people who won't want to do them.
"They are going to be required to do something of a productive nature for 40 hours, a job and treatment and community service. They are going to have their urine tested sometimes daily and they are going to be coming to drug court in the beginning every week."
"These programs have a proven track record of reducing recidivism, making good use of public dollars and meeting the needs of offenders while ensuring accountability," Van Hollen said, in a news release announcing the grant recipients. "I'm pleased I was able to work with lawmakers to improve public safety in this manner."
The attorney general's office said in the same release that TAD programs have proven to be effective at increasing public safety and reducing costs of local criminal justice systems.
"Eighty-one percent of TAD graduates did not have any new convictions after three years and 97 percent of TAD graduates stayed out of prison after completing their TAD program," it said. "While greatly reducing these recidivism rates, local TAD projects also save an average of $1.93 for every dollar invested."
Morrison said the expectations of the attorney general's office seem unrealistic.
"That's not numbers I've heard," he said. "I've heard if we get a 20- to 30-percent reduction in recidivism we'll be very successful and right in the mainstream.
"We can't have unrealistic expectations here. People have to be motivated to change. If you're not motivated to change, you are not going to get into the program and you are sure as heck not going to get through it."
Morrison said there's lot of work ahead for the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee and other county employees that will be involved in the programs.
"It's going to be a lot of work and nobody is getting paid extra for this," he said. "This is totally in addition to what we're supposed to do.
"I'm not complaining about this, I want to be clear about that. I can assure you I wouldn't be taking on this work if I didn't think this would make a difference."