April 12, 2019 – Washington Co., WI – This week Washington County Judge Todd Martens made a presentation before the County Board on starting a Drug Treatment Court in Washington County.
“A treatment court is an opportunity to take someone who has been charged with one or more crimes and divert them toward treatment,” said Martens. “If they successfully complete treatment they get the charges dismissed at the end of the diversion.”
Washington County had a similar program about 13 years ago. “In 2006 Washington County started an OWI Treatment and Diversion program or TAD,” said Martens. “It was a way to get people who had a second offense drunk driving into treatment with the hope they would be less likely to offend later on.”
Martens said that program changed over time as research suggested treatment dollars would be better focused on more hard-core drunk drivers.
The county transitioned its TAD program to focus on drunk drivers with third and fourth offenses. It also partnered with UW-Washington County to do a study on the effects of the program. Results showed TAD reduced recidivism by 80 percent.
Fast forward to today and because of a dramatic increase in the opioid epidemic the state said state money would only be awarded if the county transitioned its TAD to an opiate/opioid program.
“We did that a couple years ago where individuals charged with an opioid offense had to enter a one-year diversion program and then come back to court,” said Martens.
Elevate, a drug treatment and evaluation program in Jackson, was brought in to evaluate people. “Elevate had to see if they’re appropriate for TAD. If they get approved then they return to court, plead guilty and then they get a year to complete the TAD program. If they successfully complete the program the charge is dismissed,” Martens said.
Out of the 72 counties in Wisconsin, 66 have some form of drug treatment court.
Drug treatment court, according to Martens, is significantly different from TAD in terms of reducing recidivism because there’s much more accountability during the treatment process.
Requirements include regular face-to-face contact with Elevate, evaluation updates, intense outpatient treatments and even inpatient treatments. It also can include medication-assisted treatment and random drug screenings to guarantee a person adheres to absolute sobriety.
Martens said the biggest difference in Drug Court is the actual regular involvement of the courts. “You have continuing regular involvement with a judge, a prosecutor, a defense attorney and a treatment provider,” said Martens. “In this program a person has to come back to court regularly and it can be as often as every week and as a person maintains their sobriety it becomes less frequent.”
Staffing, said Martens, where every case is reviewed weekly, is a large part of the success of the program.
“We consistently stay in people’s business,” he said. “We talk about how things are going with each case and we meet with each person and there are rewards or sanctions administered and it’s all done in a formal courtroom setting. Research suggests that continuing judicial involvement is a critical component in helping people maintain sobriety.”
-Once people within the county court system complete training the drug court should get underway in Washington County.
-At this point the county has state funding for the TAD program and the county contributes.
-A pilot drug treatment court program has been developed.
-Elevate and Human Services are in the final process of writing a $500,000 grant that could be used to help fund the drug treatment program.
-The county does not need to hire another judge. The four sitting judges in Washington County will participate with Judge Martens taking the lead.
-The reason Washington County never had a drug court in the past was because there wasn’t full judicial support.