Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced on Oct. 19 a $405,000 distribution of federal grant funds dedicated to expanding Dane County’s Drug Treatment Court Program (DCTP).
The grant, funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, allocated money to expand substance use disorder (SUD) treatment in established drug courts across the U.S. as an alternative to incarceration. Dane County was one of 91 recipient organizations across 34 states and territories.
“We need an all-hands-on-deck approach in our community to address the ongoing opioid crisis and related behavioral health challenges like addiction,” Parisi said in a press release. “Through these funds, our Drug Court participants will have access to increased support and services that reduce barriers to obtaining and maintaining recovery.”
The DCTP serves to “enhance public safety through the reduction of recidivism by coordinating effective and accountable substance use disorder treatment and supportive services for participants,” according to the Dane County Clerk of Courts.
The current Drug Treatment Court Program is 12-18 months long and consists of various court reviews and treatment recommendations as well as alcohol and substance testing. An assigned judge presides over the program, which is broken up into five phases.
Ion Meyn, associate professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School and principal drafter of the American Bar Association’s Diversion Standards, said the DCTP program was a step in the right direction.
However, he thought the county could go further to promote alternatives to incarceration by investing in earlier diversion intervention tactics.
“The Drug Court in Dane County has made significant, positive changes that reduces carceral outcomes and encourages participant success,” Meyn told The Daily Cardinal in an email. “At the same time, it is a late-stage intervention that results in serious collateral consequences, including the threat of a felony conviction.”
The City of Madison created a pre-arrest diversion program called the Madison Addiction Recovery Initiative (MARI) in 2017 that offered to drop nonviolent charges stemming from addiction if the participants completed a treatment program. The program received $1.2 million in federal grant funding in 2019 and launched its second iteration — the Madison Area Addiction Recovery Initiative (MAARI) — in September 2020.
The DCTP focuses on interventions for individuals already involved in the criminal justice system who are facing “drug-driven” charges.
To participate in DCTP, individuals have to meet various eligibility criteria, including being an adult resident of Dane County, having a felony-level, non-violent drug charge and being identified as a moderate-to-high risk reoffender by the Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions (COMPAS) tool.
Potential participants also go through a multi-step screening and assessment process before program admission.
With the new grant funding, the program aims to increase access to recovery housing for participants, develop transportation assistance for program participants and contract new staff, including a mental health professional and peer support specialist.
New funding will help divert individuals to treatment and away from incarceration, said Laura Albert, a professor and researcher at UW-Madison experienced in using industrial engineering mathematical models to study public policy impacts like diversion programs.
“These new pathways and programming that utilize treatment and support services can create reductions in opioid-related arrests [and] fewer hospital encounters,” Albert told the Cardinal.
The grant-funded program project is expected to extend through September 2028, serving a total of 100 individual participants through its lifetime.
“The more that any program invests in community-based interventions versus carceral-centered interventions, the better for the individual and the community,” Meyn said.