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Otter Tail DWI Court Wins Award in Excellence

Friday, May 26, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Laura Fenstermaker
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The Otter Tail County DWI Treatment Court was awarded the Excellence in Corrections Award Thursday, May 25 at an evening banquet of the Minnesota Association of County Probation Officer’s 60th Annual State Conference. 
 
The Excellence in Corrections Award is presented to a correction’s program, which has demonstrated outstanding leadership and development in the field of probation.  Members from the Otter Tail DWI Court Team were present to accept the award.
 
The Otter Tail County DWI Court program began in 2008 and since than it has served 115 individuals.  Currently there are 78 graduates of the program for a graduation rate of 87%.  The program operates with five phases that emphasizes treatment throughout the program and geared to each participant’s individual needs. The first four phases last a minimum of 78 weeks (18 months) and the final phase is a post-graduation phase for a minimum of 27 weeks. Throughout the program individuals meet with their probation officer, attend treatment, and attend court bi-monthly (monthly in the 4th phase) and is tested for alcohol and drugs at least twice a week throughout the entire program.  Other ancillary services are provided as needed for each individual which could include assistance with housing, employment, mental health services, parenting, and other legal needs.  All individuals are encouraged to obtain their driver’s license as soon as possible with many of them needing to enroll in the ignition interlock program.
 
In a State wide DWI Court evaluation funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the MN Office of Traffic Safety and completed by NPC Research the Otter Tail County DWI program participants were found to less likely to be rearrested than offenders who were eligible for the program but did not participate.  Participants were almost half as likely to be rearrested (on any charge) as the comparison group in the first year after DWI court entry and 41% less likely after two years. The study also found the DWI Court program had a total cost savings of $11,386 per OTC-DWI participant.
 
Program evaluations completed by participants indicate the main factors for their success in the program were: the strict accountability, frequent and random alcohol/drug testing, and the relationships with Team members (especially probation and the Judge) and the engagement and completion of treatment.   Tom, a graduate of the program, states "without the DWI Courts accountability, it would not have been possible for me to accomplish my goal to lead a sober lifestyle. With the DWI Court teams help while I was in the program, as well as their continued help today, I am living that sober lifestyle I so desperately needed".  Jessica, a graduate of the program shared with the Team a quote (author unknown) to express her feelings in regards to the program; "Sometimes what appears like an obstacle in your path is really a gift to move you in a better direction.”
 
The Otter Tail County DWI Court Team is made up of several partners and it is that working relationship that contributes to the success of the program.  A partnership that works together to enhance public safety by reducing the number of repeat offenders and reducing financial and societal cost by providing a judicially supervised program of coordinated, effective treatment and supportive services to substance-abusing offenders with the goal of returning sober, productive, law-abiding citizens to the community.
 
The Otter Tail County DWI Court program is proud of their partners and the individuals that work together to make our community better.
 
Probation Director Desta Lutzwick makes this comment about the program: “When someone graduates from our program and shares their story of change, it is extremely moving.  You hear how someone has moved from being in a very dark place to someone that has found peace.   It is never an easy journey but a journey worth fighting for.  Our program and team apply the external motivation to move towards change but is it the participant that makes the choice.   The DWI program provides intensive supervision and requires chemical treatment and developing a support network.   The participants see Judge Senyk every two weeks which allows for the Court to get regular face to face updates.  The accountability of our program is invaluable when it comes to promoting change.”   
 
DOC District Supervisor Brian Rubenstein expressed he gratitude for the Team. “On behalf of the MN Department of Corrections, we wish to congratulate the Otter Tail County DUI Court for their excellence in service award being received today.  The OTC DUI Court has been a fundamental program for building success within the clients we serve.  As with any program, we too have experienced challenges related to client recidivism and a reduction in funding.  However, these two elements have not deterred us from continuing with our mission to help clients change their behaviors and become successful members within our community.  I want to specifically thank five members of the OTC DUI Court Program as these five truly make this program a success.  Surveillance Officer Rob, Probation Agent Hallie, Corrections Agent Nicole, Chemical Dependency Assessor Dana and Treatment Court Coordinator Tria.  Without the work of these five individuals this program would not be as successful as it is.  These five dedicated individuals continuously spend countless hours toward making the mission of this program a success.  Whether it is walking up to a client’s residence on a rainy night, conducting unannounced drug tests, or filling Tria’s 24 inch thick binder with additional documents, we know the hard work these five have put into this program and we appreciate their dedication to making client behavior change the priority of this program.  Again, as a member of the steering committee and district supervisor of the MN Dept of Corrections…Congratulations to you four and to our program!”

According to the National Center for DWI Courts there are more than 2 million drivers who have three or more DWI convictions on their record; a staggering 400,000 have five or more.  Research has shown that these drivers pose the greatest risk of causing fatalities on our roadways.
 
DWI Courts are the most effective solution for individuals who repeatedly endanger others on the road due to an underlying substance use disorder.  Specialty treatment courts, such as the Otter Tail County DWI Court, use a team of treatment providers, the judge, and other court and law enforcement professionals to hold participants accountable for their actions, supervise them closely, and provide intense treatment for substance use disorders, mental health issues, and other needs.
 
This combination of court supervision and evidence-based treatment has been proven to get repeat DWI offenders to drop driving under the influence of alcohol and other drugs.  In fact, top DWI courts have been found to reduce recidivism by as much as 60%.  And repeat offenders who have participated in a DWI court program are 19 times less likely to drive while impaired than those in traditional court settings.
 
In addition to protecting our communities from impaired drivers, DWI court also save valuable taxpayer dollars. The cost of alcohol-impaired crashes in the US in 2010 was $44 billion; by contract, for every $1 invested, DWI courts save communities $3.19.  Not only that, but the ripple effect of fewer impaired drivers means fewer crashes and fewer people hospitalized, exponentially increasing cost savings over time.
 
Minnesota is now home to fourteen (14) DWI Courts and seven (7) DWI Hybrid courts.  Together, we can end impaired driving.  We don’t have to choose between our citizens and our budgets; by investing in smart justice reform, like DWI Courts, we can save resources and save lives.  If you or someone you know would like more information about the Otter Tail County DWI Court program, please contact coordinator Tria Mann at (218) 998-8460 or at tria.mann@courts.state.mn.us

Otter Tail County DWI Court staff
Otter Tail County DWI Court Team Members present to accept the MACPO Excellence in Corrections Award. From left to right: Surveillance Officer Robb Emerson, DOC Agent Nicole Woodman, Probation Officer Hallie Metclaf, Probation Director Desta Lutzwick and Rewind, Inc. LADC Jenny Snook.

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