Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/06/2004 03:40 PM Senate STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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                                                               
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                                                               
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                                                               
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.                                                                                          

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