waukesha county's alcohol treatment court

picking up the tab

This fall, the Waukesha County Board of Supervisors will decide whether local taxpayers will pay the cost of the County's Alcohol Treatment Court.

A $450,000 federal grant has covered the first three years of the pilot program and is running out.

That means the Waukesha County taxpayers would have to kick in $144,000 per year to cover the cost of trying to rehabilitate third-time drunk drivers.

County Executive Dan Vrakas has publicly stated that he is impressed with the program.  But he has stopped short of saying that the county has the money to run the treatment court. 

video Vrakas

Advocates and skeptics, meanwhile, have weighed in on the debate. 

Betty Groenewold is the president of SOPHIA, a group of churches and community organizations in Waukesha County.

She calls the program humane because it focuses on treatment rather than punishment. 

Judge Lee Dreyfus, Jr. says that treatment is necessary for rehabilitation. 

He says that convicted drunk drivers have trouble getting treatment while sitting in jail. 

Other advocates argue that the cost of running the Alcohol Treatment Court is cheaper than paying the $65 a day it costs to house each inmate the jail or Huber facility.

But skeptics say that judges have more important things to do than monitor alcoholics who want to drink and drive.

And, there is no guarantee that the people who work through the program will stay sober.

One supervisor says that churches or private agencies should fund such programs, not the government.

County Supervisor William Zaborowski has said that public funding "should be the last resort."

Supervisors will make a final decision on whether to fund the program when they vote on the county budget in November.

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