January 16, 2019 – Otter Tail County, MN-
The consequences of impaired driving are felt throughout communities and families. Reducing ‘Driving While Intoxicated’ (DWI) related fatalities and injuries as well as lowering the number of repeat DWI offenders is the mission of the DWI Court program. The goal is to return sober, productive, law-abiding citizens to the community. Recently, at the Otter Tail County Courthouse, two individuals graduated from the DWI Court program with many personal achievements.
The program is a five-phase model with approximately 78 weeks expected in the first four phases and approximately 27 weeks following graduation in phase five. The type of treatment and duration of the program is geared to each participant’s individual needs. Each participant must qualify and be screened for entry into the program. Otter Tail County DWI Court currently has 31 active participants that are in various phases of the program.
“I am in the program because I want to live sober and I appreciate the accountability,” said a current DWI Court program participant.
The Probation Department provides a Probation Officer that is trained in Specialty Courts as well as a full-time Surveillance Officer. The Surveillance Officer performs curfew compliance checks and drug tests on participants. The Probation Officer uses assessment tools to aid in determining the risk and need. They also enforce program rules and coordinate services that could include mental health, chemical dependency, vocational, education and driver’s license reinstatement.
In Courtroom 1, filled with over 30 family, friends, probation officers, chemical dependency assessors and fellow participants, graduates were given a coin that states: “Nothing changes if nothing changes.” Each graduate was given a diploma as Judge ¬¬¬Miller spoke of their days sober and personal achievements.
“You’ve had help,” said Judge Miller, “but your success comes down to you.”
Graduates briefly spoke of what the program meant to them. One graduate, with 816 days of sober living after completing treatment and attending Alcohol Anonymous (AA) meetings, advised his fellow DWI Court participants. “I learned a lot, met a lot of great people. Stick with it!” he said, “If I can make it through at my age, you can too.”
Hallie Metcalf and Wade Erickson, probation officers who work in the DWI Court program were in attendance. A graduate remarked on their commitment to their recovery and what they meant to their success. “It works. . . if you want change, things will change. Thank you (DWI Court) team. They were always there for me.”
In the spirit of graduation, cake and coffee was served.
The DWI Court program began in 2008 and in 2017 won the ‘Excellence in Corrections Award for Outstanding Leadership and Development in the Field of Probation’ through the Minnesota Association of County Probation Officers.