Wisconsin News

DNA proposal puts AODA funding in question

WEST SALEM, Wis. - With Wisconsin on the verge of implementing new DNA collection standards, some are raising concerns about how the new methods would be funded.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice is proposing diverting money from several areas, including alcohol and drug prevention programs for students.

"Prevention is a much better investment of our funds," said Tracy Herlitzke, director of the Wisconsin Safe and Healthy School Center. Herlitzke's office is located at CESA #4 in West Salem.

This last year, more than $1 million in state funding was directed to efforts to prevent alcohol and drug abuse among students. That includes projects like "Kickers," a movie about prescription drugs done by students at La Crosse Central High School.


Herlitzke says federal and state funding cuts in recent years have decimated AODA programs.

"This is sort of the last little bit of money that's allocated for alcohol and other drug prevention throughout our state and it would be a significant loss," she said.

The money comes from a surcharge the state imposes on those who pay court fines. Nearly $5 million was raised last year. The money currently goes to the Wisconsin Department of Justice and is then funneled to different state agencies.

DOJ officials declined News 8's request for an interview for this story.

However, the agency's 2013-2015 budget proposal argues the surcharge should only be used to support law enforcement programs, like enhanced DNA collection.

"I am proposing that (it) no longer be used as a pass-through to fund other state agency operations that do not have a connection with DOJ programs and the use of which DOJ can not monitor," wrote Attorney General JB Van Hollen in the budget proposal.

"The funding approach under current law is inefficient and illogical," he said.

Still, some say cutting off the prevention programs will lead to bigger problems down the road.

"It's a cycle. You don't do anything for two years because the funding is gone and then the (abuse) rates go back up and you realize: 'oh we really were making a difference and now we need some money to do this again'," said Herlitzke.

"It's just better to keep things rolling," she said.

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