RACINE COUNTY — As illegal drugs continue to harm the community, Racine County programs and alcohol and drug treatment can help curb recidivism.
That message came through in a March 6 presentation by Racine County Alternatives Program Supervisor Boyd Schwartz and Circuit Court Judge Timothy Boyle to the Government Services Committee. It was designed to help some County Board members better understand how the county is treating people with addiction and mental health issues after they have been arrested.
Anyone who “lands in jail with new charges, we are interviewing them the next morning” and giving a risk assessment to the court, Schwartz said.
Currently, the county has programs that deal with alcohol and drug abuse which require regular court visits, testing and counseling. People who are arrested are directed to different treatment programs depending on their personal situation.
The county has a veterans court for nonviolent offenders who served in the military, Schwartz said. It works closely with the Racine County District Attorney’s Office and allows offenders the opportunity to go into an 18-month program that includes weekly court appearances.
“Ultimately, it’s about sobriety and staying out of the criminal justice system,” Schwartz said.
He said there is a 30-day Racine County jail AODA (alcohol and other drug abuse) program that individuals participate in while in jail. It runs eight hours a day, five days a week, and “there’s a lot of success there.”
For the last six months, the county has been operating a “mental health diversion program” in the court system which has had mixed results, Schwartz said.
“We’ve been identifying people who land in the County Jail who have mental health issues,” he said. “People who have committed some lower-level crimes, we’ve been diverting and the DA’s office has been working with us to not charge people.”
There are more than 1,000 people currently participating in a program, Schwartz and Boyle said. Some programs see more than a 75 percent success rate in participants not being arrested again and staying out of jail.
Funding for the programs
Boyle, who oversees the alcohol and drug treatment court, told the committee: “All these different programs that we have, all some way or shape, involve what you guys have to fund. Whether it’s the Sheriff’s department or Human Services Department, you will find that there’s probably somewhere in their budget something that’s related to these projects.”
Boyle said the veteran’s court is “probably the best treatment court that is out there right now. The reason for that is it has a mentoring system, and it also involves people that are veterans.”
The veteran mentors have a sense of duty, honor and morality “that they learned in their participation in the military process,” Boyle said. “That background plays a huge role in adapting to treatment programming, adopting to regiment, authority.
“As opposed to the court that I run, which is the drug treatment program, where people come from all walks of life; and generally, their walks of life, the majority of the time, is complete dysfunction.”
‘Build from scratch’
Despite the treatment programming available, Boyle said it is difficult to have “somebody that you need to build from scratch. Having a sense of putting a value on going to a job, the value of getting educated, the value of supporting somebody else.
“All life skills, a lot of times none of these people have, and then you throw in a heroin addiction on top of that,” Boyle said. “It is a tremendous feat to get these individuals to overcome that.”
The reality is, he said, if “they don’t overcome this addiction, what will happen is they typically will have to go to prison.”
Particularly when it comes to people with opioid addictions, Boyle said prison treatment does not work.
“The reason being is: You need to be in the community, to be susceptible, to truly be in a recovery-type setting,” Boyle explained. “When you’re in a confined setting it’s great to program them and say, ‘Don’t do this,’ and, ‘Do that.’ Well, when you don’t have a heroin dealer right on the corner, you’re not going to do heroin.”
However, when temptation does present itself, Boyle said, the programming “does not transfer into the community.”
He reminded the committee that the surge of addiction is not just a Racine problem or a Wisconsin problem, it’s a nationwide problem.
“These programs are the wave of the future,” Boyle said. “When there is consideration of funding and these things come up, I just want you to be aware of where that money is going and that it has, and is having, a very great impact.”
“All life skills, a lot of times none of these people have, and then you throw in a heroin addiction on top of that. It is a tremendous feat to get these individuals to overcome that.” Racine Circuit Court Judge Timothy Boyle