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(AP file photo)
(AP file photo)

Buzzkillers? Lawmakers dis treatment courts

As the Land of 10,000 Treatment Centers, it is probably fitting that Minnesota should be home to some above-average treatment courts. And in the estimation of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it is.

After examining the operations of over 700 DWI courts across the country, the NHTSA and the National Center for DWI Courts officially designated the South St. Louis County DWI Court as one of just four “Academy Courts.” As such, the court’s judges and other staff are charged with identifying and developing best practices for DWI courts.

In a statement, NCDC Director Jim Eberspacher heaped praise on the Duluth-based court, calling it “a national model for holding DWI offenders accountable while connecting them to the treatment they need to change their lives.”

In an op-ed in the Star Tribune on Wednesday, Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Lillehaug touted the national honor in making a pitch for a stable funding mechanism for the state’s treatment courts, which currently rely on a hodgepodge of sources for their operating money.  As Lillehaug put it, that means they are held together with “the judicial equivalent of chewing gum and baling wire.”

The Judicial Branch wants to change that and so does Gov. Mark Dayton. But it appears their pleas have fallen on deaf ears at the GOP-controlled Legislature. With the budget showdown heating up, a House/Senate conference committee has recommended a two-year appropriation of just $200,000 for treatment courts. That’s less than six percent of the Judicial Branch’s $3.4 million request.

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