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TAD, Drug Court Programs Start Aug. 1

With Marinette County’s Drug Court and Treatment Alternatives and Diversion (TAD) programs preparing to go active on Friday, Aug. 1, the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee, the group most responsible for its existence, may eventually be given more authority and a higher profile. Meanwhile, the Health and Human Services Department has been given the lead role in organizing the nuts and bolts to make the anti-opiate initiative a reality.

But the cooperation between the disciplines that make up the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee are critical to its success.

Criminal Justice members, in addition to Elsner, include District Attorney Allen Brey, Circuit Court Judge James Morrison, Sheriff Jerry Sauve, Jail Administrator Robert Majewski, County Board Representative Cheryl Wruk, citizen at large Bryan Peth, Clerk of Courts Linda Dumke-Marquardt, Health and Human Services Administrator Robin Elsner, State Probation and Parole Officer Bobbie Christopherson, Marinette City Police Chief John Mabry, Public Defender Bradley Schraven, and Marinette High School Principal Corrie Lambie. Membership is based on the position rather than the individual.

Elsner reported at the committee meeting on Friday, July 18 that the TAD and Drug Court handbook and policies are complete and the program would begin accepting referrals on Friday, Aug. 1.

With some intervention from Elsner and Morrison, the grant is providing the three hours of attorney time per week that the District Attorney’s office needed to do their part of the work.

Morrison, who has been a vocal supporter of the program, thanked everyone “for the tremendous amount of work this committee has done” to make the programs into realities.

He mentioned a ”letter to the editor” from a person in Menominee who urged them to not to forget about the addicts, and declared, “We’re not ignoring the addicts...We are trying to protect the community from the physical, financial and social effects of illegal drug use.” Purpose of the Drug Court and TAD program, he said, is to protect the community by helping addicts get a better life and not offend again, to treat the addictions, protect public safety, and eventually reduce the jail population.

Sheriff Sauve said he too had read the letter, and noted one of his remarks had been commented upon. “I don’t see what’s wrong with a reduction in the number of people in jail,” he declared, “I don’t see what’s wrong with looking ahead to a reduction of the number of people in jail...it’s one effect we can look forward to.”

“We are focused on treating the addicts,” Elsner said. “It’s all part of it...We want to treat them, not jail them.”

Judge Morrison agreed. “If we save money by getting people off drugs, keeping them out of jail, making them productive and giving them better lives, that’s a win/win for everyone!”

Throughout the planning for the TAD and Drug Court. committee members have stressed that route is not an option for violent offenders or major drug dealers, and Morrison stressed, as he has in the past, “Let me make it clear, commercial drug sellers are not candidates!”

Wruk commented she has read that many of the addicts got started by taking drugs prescribed by a physician, and asked what can be done to protect them from exposure to opiates in the first place.

“You’re right,” District Attorney Brey told her. “When officers arrest someone with illegal prescription drugs, they are a perfect candidate for drug court. He said usually the problem starts with a doctor who prescribes the drugs for 30 to 60 days at a time, and then cuts them off. Those who have become addicted then seek other sources.

Elsner said the United Way’s Cradle to Career program is addressing that problem. There will be a conference in Marinette on Oct. 1 for doctors and dentists to talk about how prescription drugs add to the opiate addiction problem. He said Dr. Guy Powers and Rob Valentine of Health and Human Services and Marinette City Police Sergeant Scott Ries will participate along with local doctors, dentists and pharmacists.

“This is a big problem,” Morrison said of the prescription drug issue. “There are lots of programs, and we’re open to anything that works!”

Sauve said pharmacies are great about working with law enforcement and have a data base network that helps identify people who attempt to purchase multiple prescriptions. He added one issue for prescribers to consider is, “Should you get a 90-day prescription for Vicoden if you have a tooth pulled?”

Sauve noted one of the bills Gov. Scott Walker signed this spring was a requirement for anyone buying opiate prescriptions to show a photo ID.

Elsner said the TAD program will be contracting with Siemens for drug testing, and that contract may not be quite ready to go by the Aug. 1 start date. They will use other services until that contract is in place.

Elsner had told the Health and Human Services Committee a week earlier that there were at least 20 current jail inmates who could benefit from the TAD/Drug Court program.

Initial thoughts had been to combine the TAD drug testing with those ordered by Wisconsin Probation and Parole, but that won’t be happening, at least for now. Christopherson reported the State Department of Corrections contracts with ATTIC Correctional Services for random drug tests, which now has a facility on Owena Street in Marinette. She said when an addict’s “color” comes up they will be contacted to report there for a drug and/or alcohol test within a specified amount of time.

“This is something I’ve been pushing for a long time, so to see it really come is very, very good!” Christopherson declared.

Judge Morrison reported in August he will be attending a National Judicial Conference to learn about “co-occurring” disorders, for example schizophrenia and alcoholism, or alcoholism and compulsive gambling.”

Since its start at the urging of former County Administrator Steve Corbeille, the Criminal Justice Committee has been chaired by the County Administrator, with the exception of a term or two under the direction of Judge Dave Miron. Since the unexpected resignation of County Administrator Ellen Sorensen from county employ in May Vice Chair Majewski has been filling the position.

The meeting began with a discussion on who should officially be elected to the chairman position.

Morrison almost immediately moved to elect Majewski, but Sauve interjected that Majewski doesn’t want it. He said historically it has been the County Administrator, since Corbeille pushed for the committee to be organized. He added that Miron had also done an excellent job.

Majewski said from all the trainings he attended, it seemed to be that one of “the big three” - the elected officials holding posts of judge, sheriff or district attorney - should head the committee.

Morrison said his suggestion of Majewski was to serve as an interim chair, until the county gets an administrator on board.

Sauve asked Majewski if he would accept the job on that basis, and Majewski said he would. However, he said they need a secretary to take minutes, not the chair. He said from the beginning the administrator’s secretary did all the minutes, but he has been told that will no longer happen, “and that’s why Faye (Olson) is here today.” Olson is a member of the Sheriff’s Department office staff, and was taking minutes for the meeting.

In the absence of an administrator, a three-member team made up of Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison, Finance Director Pat Kass and Human Resources Administrator Jennifer Holtger has been named to share the position.

Brey suggested keeping Majewski as vice chair and naming one member of the administrative team as chair. He felt Kass might be a good choice, since he’s involved financially. He felt with all the committees to go through, the county might go another four to six months before there is an administrator on board.

Elsner, as Criminal Justice Coordinator, the sheriff, judge or DA should chair the committee, not whoever becomes the county administrator. He said if Majewski is willing to accept the chairmanship on an interim basis, he would serve as backup, and would send his secretary if the Sheriff’s Department is unable to supply one.

“I agree with Robin that this could and should be a high profile committee when everything is organized. And I agree the chair should be one of our disciplines...but we’re not there yet,” Morrison declared. He moved to name Majewski as chair, with Elsner as backup vice chair, with committee leadership to be reviewed once a new county administrator is on board. Vote in favor was unanimous.


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