AG announces $1.5m to expand drug and diversion courts

Funding to help future Monroe County drug court

Attorney General Josh Kaul is divvying up $1.5 million in grants for drug courts.

The 2019-21 state budget includes $1.5 million for expanding drug courts. Such courts provide alternatives to prosecution and incarceration for offenders who abuse alcohol and other drugs.

Kaul announced at news conference Monday that the money will go to help Door and Lafayette counties create drug courts, support the Ho-Chunk Nation’s drug court and help Shawano County’s newly established drug court.

The money also will be used to expand treatment and diversion programs in Adams, Buffalo, Marinette, Monroe, Pepin, Portage and Polk counties.

Gov. Tony Evers also appeared at the news conference. He called drug courts a “critical part” of criminal justice system reform.

Update from 5 p.m. newscast

Monroe County already has an OWI court. Officials said an official drug court will begin next year. Monroe County Justice Department officials said these programs help keep nonviolent people out of jail.

Most importantly, it helps people overcome addiction, so they don’t end up back in the criminal justice system. Monroe County Justice Programs assistant Coordinator Tara Nichols said these programs give drug addicts an incentive to get help.

“Treatment court is a more individualized approach,” Nichols said. “They are also meant to be treatment focused. It’s really reinforcing the positive behaviors and the positive progress and changes people make.”

These nonviolent criminals are given a specific path to recovery instead of sitting in jail only to return to the same behavior when they walk back into the community.

“It’s cheaper than somebody sitting in jail, especially people with longer jail sentences. That helps with police time, DA’s time, Judges time, our time, and taxpayer money.”

Monroe County Justice Programs Coordinator, Eric Weihe, said these programs are also more reliable than relying on that person to get help on their own.

“You can make sure that they are at the right level of treatment,” Weihe said. “You know how they are doing on their sobriety and there’s no lapse in communication on their sobriety between all parties.”

The person will then be able to get a job, housing, improve family relationships and continue living life as a productive member of society.

Monroe County officials said a majority of the funding for the new drug court will come from another grant. They are still waiting to see if they will be rewarded that money. That grant will help pay for the drug court case manager and the other staff to make that possible.

They plan to use this grant to address mental health concerns. Often times addiction is accompanied by mental health problems. So the money will help pay staff who are trained to deal with these cases.

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