The Third Branch
Dunn County Diversion Court celebrates five years
By Jenae Schlosser, Integrated Treatment Specialist
Judge Rod W. Smeltzer
Judge William C. Stewart
The Dunn County Diversion Court program (DCDC), started in 2008 as a problem-solving court to address alcohol and drug abuse, mental health issues and other problems that contribute to criminal behavior, is celebrating its five-year anniversary.
To mark this milestone, DCDC is collecting data to compare current participant outcomes with outcomes previously achieved. The hope is that the data will show an improvement under the current model, which emphasizes providing integrated services to each individual for co-occurring mental health disorders and AODA.
This initiative will wrap up in December 2013.
Like problem-solving courts across Wisconsin, the DCDC aims to reduce costs, decrease recidivism and improve community safety. But, the DCDC approach is unique. While many treatment courts are established with the goal of dealing with individuals who either have a primary need in the area of alcohol and/or drugs or mental health, the DCDC focuses on people with co-occurring disorders – the most complex cases.
It is our belief that through collaborative efforts of existing treatment providers and adding group-oriented treatment modalities that our services to diversion court participants will be enhanced. And thus, the goal of reducing recidivism and improving public safety will be achieved. It is noteworthy that service providers acknowledge that a substantial proportion of "non-criminal justice" clientele present with COD's and that these enhanced services will indirectly benefit many others in the community.
During the court's first two years, we learned a lot. Based on our experience and program evaluations, we determined that a significant number of referrals (75 percent) present with co-occurring disorders of mental health and substance abuse. Existing strategies of providing "parallel" or "sequential" treatment provided less than optimal results, especially among females.
In March 2011, Dunn County was awarded a grant from the Office of Justice Assistance (OJA) to develop an evidence-based protocol to implement integrated care for criminal justice target populations who present with co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders. That protocol was published in a report titled Dunn County Criminal Justice System and Behavioral Health Providers: A Road Map to Improving Services and Outcomes for Individuals with Co-occurring Disorders. It contained three key revelations:
- There was a lack of standardized mental health and substance abuse screening tools being used across the four main community-based behavioral health providers.
- There was a lack of standardized, integrated assessment tools being used across providers; and
- There was insufficient integrated treatment programming for individuals with co-occurring disorders provided within/across these agencies.
The report's recommendations, along with DCDC's program evaluations, cited the need for:
- Improving the gender success ratio of individualized treatment plans;
- Establishing a protocol to assess each participant's responsiveness to treatment;
- Evaluating all participants;
- Seamlessly integrating treatment; and
- Creating a structured cognitive behavioral program.
The goals of DCDC's current enhancement grant are to utilize standardized mental health and substance abuse screening tools; work with mental health and AODA service providers to enhance their ability to treat individuals who present with co-occurring disorders; and collaborate on integrated plans that incorporate simultaneous therapeutic efforts and reduction of offender risk and criminogenic needs. The goal is one person, one plan.
DCDC employs an integrated treatment (COD) specialist who is responsible for intensive case management services. The specialist's duties are many, and include coordinating a comprehensive range of services to accommodate individuals with different levels of impairment and symptoms.
Two judges switched off in the DCDC - Rod W. Smeltzer and William C. Stewart.
For more information, contact Jenae Schlosser at firstname.lastname@example.org or (715) 231-6688.