Legislature(2003 - 2004)
04/06/2004 03:40 PM Senate STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HCR 29-SUPPORT THERAPEUTIC COURTS am CHAIR GARY STEVENS announced HCR 29 to be up for consideration. JON BITTNER, staff to Representative Cheryll Heinze, explained that alcoholism in Alaska is a serious problem and one of the ways to combat it is through the therapeutic court system. Therapeutic courts have a proven success rate and are significantly cheaper for the state. REPRESENTATIVE CHERYLL HEINZE, sponsor, added that the daily cost of the wellness court program is about $22 per day or about $11,000 over an 18 month period. In comparison, the average cost of traditional incarceration is $113 per day. That's a difference of $50,000 per offender. Currently the largest supplier of mental health treatment in the country is the correctional system. This is expensive and ineffective. People with substance abuse problems aren't helped when they are locked away without any treatment options. When released from prison, those people are simply dried drunks. The addiction has not been addressed and it's likely that those individuals will re-offend as a result of their addiction. She pointed out that the recidivism rate for incarcerated alcohol and drug abusers is around 67 percent nationwide while the recidivism rate for wellness court is around 25 percent. The disparity in the success rate is attributed to the use of Naltrexone, a drug that inhibits alcohol cravings, coupled with community based treatment programs and cognitive behavioral therapy. To treat someone with an addiction, you must treat the cause, she said. HCR 29 am asks that the Legislature show its support for therapeutic courts, particularly in regard to crimes related to driving under the influence. (DUI). It asks the Department of Law and the Public Defender agency to actively participate in the startup of therapeutic courts in areas with high incidents of DUI offenses and strong local support. "Therapeutic courts are effective, they're inexpensive, and they work," she said. CHAIR GARY STEVENS asked for a brief description of what happens in a therapeutic court for alcohol abuse. REPRESENTATIVE HEINZE explained that the program is voluntary. The individual must agree to participate and to take the drug Naltrexone and to maintain contact with and report back to the court. SENATOR BERT STEDMAN asked if this is for first time or multiple offenders and noted that after three DUIs you lose your driving privilege so it's too late. REPRESENTATIVE HEINZE replied it's for repeat offenders and although it may be too late for the person to drive it's not too late for them as a person. SENATOR STEDMAN asked for assurance that this wouldn't take the teeth out of the DUI laws. REPRESENTATIVE HEINZE assured him it would not. SENATOR JOHN COWDERY asked whether she believes that incarceration has an effect on an alcoholic. REPRESENTATIVE HEINZE opined it exacerbates the problem. CHAIR GARY STEVENS said a person in the therapeutic court system might live at home and maintain their job as compared with the individual that is incarcerated and isolated from family and society. REPRESENTATIVE HEINZE agreed. An individual that is under the auspices of the therapeutic court is able to be a productive citizen over the course of the 18 month program. SENATOR COWDERY asked if the individual takes Naltrexone for four months. 4:40 p.m. Senator Guess joined the meeting. REPRESENTATIVE HEINZE replied the program is 18 months, but she'd get back to him with regard to how long participants take Naltrexone. SENATOR COWDERY asked why the participants don't pay all costs rather than just a portion. REPRESENTATIVE HEINZE didn't have an answer. SENATOR COWDERY recounted an anecdotal story. CHAIR GARY STEVENS noted that the fiscal note is from the court system indicating no fiscal impact. There being no further questions, he asked for a motion. SENATOR STEDMAN made a motion to move HCR 29 am from committee with attached fiscal notes and individual recommendations. There being no objection, it was so ordered.