Ten counties and the Ho-Chunk Nation are getting $1.5 million in state funding for treatment courts and programs, Wisconsin officials announced Monday.
The funding will be used to create new courts or expand existing programs, which seek to provide alternatives to incarceration for certain non-violent offenders through drug treatment services and other means.
The $1.5 million that recipients will receive over the next two years was approved by state lawmakers and Gov. Tony Evers in the current budget. An extra $500,000 included in the final biennial plan was directed to replace a different revenue stream to support existing programming costs.
Attorney General Josh Kaul, who joined Evers and others to announce the funding recipients Monday at the state Capitol, said the moves would help combat the opioid epidemic, which he called "the most significant public safety challenge that we face."
"While those funds are going to specific counties, support for treatment helps people across the state of Wisconsin because this is a problem that doesn’t observe county lines and it doesn’t observe state lines," he said.
In all, three of the counties — Door, Lafayette and Shawano — as well as the Ho-Chunk Nation are set to get the bulk of the funding to establish new courts or support existing ones; while the remaining funding for the other seven counties is set to go toward expanding established treatment and diversion programs.
Those counties that also received awards are Adams, Marinette, Monroe, Portage, Polk and Buffalo and Pepin for a shared transportation initiative targeted at diversion program participants.
Adams County District Attorney Tania Bonnett touted the effectiveness of treatment and diversion efforts.
"I've been a prosecutor for almost 15 years and in my experience, nothing compares to treatment court in its ability to help people meaningfully address the issue that brings them to the criminal justice system," she said.
The county was awarded more than $21,000 for a volunteer transportation service for those participating in the program, as well as to fund a peer-support specialist.
While Kaul highlighted the importance of continuing to direct state dollars toward the county programs, he didn't say how much additional money he'd like to see for the efforts, noting "it's a ground-up initiative" that's led by the counties themselves.