Camden County launches DWI Court Program

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CAMDENTON - Camden County held its first DWI Court session on Friday. The DWI Court Program is a 18-24 month rehabilitation program designed to reduce the number of repeat offenders. Prosecuting Attorney Heather Miller said this type of court is long overdue.

“These treatment courts are a standard across the state of Missouri, and for years in Camden County we’ve had people that have needed these and have had to move to other counties in order to take advantage of them,” Miller said.

Miller is part of the team that supervises and provides support for program participants. The court team is a collection of sheriff’s deputies, mental health professionals and probation officers. Judge Aaron Koeppen leads the team. While only one participant had a hearing on the first day of the court, Koeppen expects the program to grow.

“We are a very unique community. Lake of the Ozarks is... we tailor to a certain group of people. As such, we have an inordinate number of facilities that serve alcohol. We have a disproportionately high number of alcohol and drug related offenses for our population,” Koeppen said. “Having treatment courts for these high-risk, high-need, high-recidivism type participants, I think it will benefit, not just morally, but financially our community.”

The program is voluntary and participants pay for a portion of the expenses. Koeppen said the program costs are significantly less to the community than the cost of sentencing someone to jail time.

The program does not accept violent offenders. If there was anyone injured in the DWI case, the program applicant would need permission from the victim to participate.  The focus on the program is supporting and improving the community.

There are five phases of the program with varying level of requirements, responsibilities and privileges. Miller referred to the decreasing amount of structure as a “step down” approach.

“What this program does is teach those learning skills, address those deficiencies and step that down and have that ability to level back up if they’re not getting it,” Miller said. “So the idea is that when people graduate from this program, they not only have been clean for 18 months but they have the strategies and skills to cope with their addiction when that temptation comes back as it inevitably will.”