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Program Profile: Cass County/Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Wellness Court (Walker, MN)

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on October 03, 2016

Program Summary

A post-sentencing, driving-while-intoxicated (DWI) court intended to guide individuals identified as drug- or alcohol-addicted into treatment, which is designed to reduce criminal behavior and recidivism, enhance public safety, and enhance the well-being of program participants. This program is rated Promising. Results suggest that after 2 years, DWI court graduates and participants were significantly less likely to be rearrested than non-DWI court participants.

Program Description

Program Goals
Cass County/Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Wellness Court (CCLLWC), which was created in 2006 in Walker, Minnesota, is a collaborative effort between a state criminal court and a tribal court that is designed to combat drug and alcohol addiction. The CCLLWC is a post-sentencing, driving-while-intoxicated (DWI) court. The mission of CCLLWC is to improve public safety by providing the case management and coordination of substance abuse intervention with judicial oversight and enhanced supervision to eligible participants, while maintaining individuals’ accountability for the offenses they committed. Program goals are to 1) reduce criminal behavior and recidivism, 2) enhance public safety, 3) enhance the well-being of participants, and 4) reduce criminal justice costs associated with chemical use and criminal behavior.
 
Target Population/Eligibility
The target population for the CCLLWC are Cass County and Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe residents, 18 years of age or older, who have committed multiple DWI offenses and have been determined to be chemically dependent. All participants must voluntarily agree to participate in the program.
 
In addition to a chemical dependency diagnosis, in order to be considered eligible for CCLLWC, participants must be 1) physically and mentally able to actively take part in the program; 2) willing to sign a treatment contract that includes regular urine screens, group and individual counseling, and additional services as needed; 3) willing to sign confidentiality releases; 4) able to attend all scheduled treatments; 5) willing to seek employment and/or enroll in an educational program; and 6) willing to accept court sanctions.
 
Program Components
CCLLWC is intended to last a minimum of 24 months for felony cases and 18 months for gross misdemeanor cases and has at least three phases. Phase 1 is the treatment stage (a minimum of 3 months), during which participants must successfully complete a chemical assessment and treatment program. Phase 2 is the transition stage (a minimum of 6 months), during which participants must apply recovery skills to sustain sobriety and maintain an individualized case plan. Phase 3 is the living well stage (a minimum of 12 months for individuals who committed felonies and 6 months for individuals who committed gross misdemeanors), during which participants must continue to abstain and maintain recovery to live a chemical-free lifestyle. Program participants are required to attend court sessions once every 2 weeks during Phases 1 and 2, and once per month during Phase 3.
 
Services and types of treatment required for all participants are based on assessed level of care and include self-help meetings. Other services and types of treatment required for some participants include detoxification, outpatient individual or group treatment sessions, relapse prevention, language- or culture-specific programs, employment assistance, and education assistance. Drug testing is required for all participants; it can be random testing and any participant can be ordered to take a drug test for cause.

The majority of case management is performed by the probation officer. Participants have contact with their probation officers through home or office visits or by phone on a regular basis; the frequency of contact is set by the program phase. Participants are given a written list of incentives/rewards as well as a list of possible sanctions and behaviors that lead to sanctions. Rewards and sanctions are tracked by the DWI court coordinator and probation officer.
 
Overall, participants usually take approximately 20 months to successfully complete the program. Participants must be alcohol- and drug-free for a minimum of 180 days before graduating from the program, complete community service, pay all court fees, have alcohol free housing, pay all fees not related to court, and attend a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) panel. Participants also have to write a relapse-prevention plan before leaving the program and continue to be on standard probation for 6 months to 1 year after graduating.
 
Key Personnel
CCLLWC’s integrated team includes two judges (one judge from the Ninth Judicial District and one judge from the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Tribal Court), a DWI court coordinator, an assistant county attorney, two probation officers, a chemical health assessor, a deputy from the sheriff’s office and multiple treatment provider representatives from the Leech Lake Reservation. Most CCLLWC team members have received training specifically on the drug court and DWI court model, the target population for the program, and program sanctions and incentives.
 
Staffing sessions to discuss participants and their progress are held every 2 weeks, and court hearings (with an average of 15 participants seen by the judges) are held weekly. CCLLWC also has a policy committee that meets outside of staffing sessions to discuss program issues. The committee consists of all team members who attend staffing and court sessions.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Rearrests
Zil and colleagues (2014) found that participants of Cass County/Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Wellness Court (CCLLWC) had a significantly lower average number of rearrests 2 years after program entry, compared with DWI offenders who experienced traditional court processing.  CCLLWC participants had 33 percent fewer rearrests, compared with comparison group members at the 2-year follow up.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
To evaluate the impact of Cass County/Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Wellness Court (CCLLWC), Zil and colleagues (2014) used a quasi-experimental research design to examine the differences in number of rearrests between CCLLWC participants and the comparison group, for each year up to 2 years following entry into the program.

This evaluation included a comparison between a sample of participants who entered the CCLLWC program from May 1, 2006, to August 23, 2012, and a comparison group of individuals who were eligible for CCLLWC, but received traditional court processing for their DWI charge. To establish similar groups, the researchers tracked data for both program and comparison group participants through existing administrative databases for a period of 1 to 2 years after court entry, depending upon availability. Researchers obtained a list from the Department of Public Safety, Office of Traffic Safety and Drive, and Vehicles Services of all individuals who had two or more DWI convictions from January 2004 to October 2002. This allowed for the identification of individuals in each county who had at least two DWIs in a period of 10 years or less and were thereby eligible for the study. CCLLWC participants and comparison individuals were matched on all available information using propensity score matching, to provide some control for differences between groups. 
 
There were 61 individuals who participated in the CCLLWC program. About two thirds (62 percent) of CCLLWC participants were male, 61 percent were American Indian/Alaska Native and 39 percent were white, and the average age at program entry was 37 years old. The comparison group (n=99) was 70 percent male, 56 percent were American Indian/Alaska Native and 51 percent were white (the race/ethnicity category was not mutually exclusive), and the average age was 39 years old. Results indicated no significant demographic differences between program and comparison groups, except the number of DWIs in the 10 years prior to the study. Fifty percent of the participants had a mental health diagnosis at program entry; all of them reported alcohol consumption; and some reported use of other substances including marijuana (41 percent), prescription drugs (20 percent), crack or cocaine (10 percent), methamphetamines (8 percent) and over-the- counter drugs (8 percent). 
 
A number of statistical methods were used to evaluate differences between the program and comparison groups, including univariate analysis of covariance, chi-square analyses, regression analysis, and a survival analysis of time.

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Cost

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Zil and colleagues (2014) conducted a cost analysis on the Cass County/Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Wellness Court (CCLLWC) program and found that, over time, the program can result in significant cost savings and a return on its investment. The program costs $19,710 per participant. The benefit due to significantly reduced recidivism for program participants over the 2 years, these savings included in the cost analysis, came to $8,946. If these cost savings are projected to 3 more years (to 5 years), they could amount to $22,365 per participant, resulting in a cost-benefit ratio of 1:1.13. That is, for every taxpayer dollar invested in the program, there is a $1.13 return after 5 years.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Zil, Charlene E., Mark S. Waller, Adrian J. Johnson, Paige M. Harrison, and Shannon M. Carey. 2014. Cass County/Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Wellness Court Walker, MN: Process, Outcome, and Evaluation Report. Portland, Ore.: NPC Research.

http://npcresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/Cass-County-Wellness-Court-Process-Outcome-and-Cost-Evaluation-FINAL-FOR-OTS.pdf
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Program Snapshot

Age: 18+

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: American Indians/Alaska Native, White

Geography: Rural, Tribal

Setting (Delivery): Courts

Program Type: Alcohol and Drug Therapy/Treatment, Probation/Parole Services, DUI/DWI Courts, Alcohol and Drug Prevention, Court Processing

Targeted Population: Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) Offenders

Current Program Status: Active

Program Director:
Shirley Smith
Court Coordinator
Cass County Probation Department
P.O. Box 3000
Walker MN 56484
Phone: 218.547.7237
Fax: 218.547.7420
Email

Researcher:
Charlene Zil
Researcher
NPC Research
5100 SW Macadam Ave., Ste. 575
Portland OR 97239-3867
Phone: 503.243.2436 ext: 119
Fax: 503.243.2454
Website
Email

Researcher:
Shannon Carey
Principal Investigator, Co-President
NPC Research
5100 SW Macadam Ave., Ste. 575
Portland OR 97239-3867
Phone: 503.243.2436
Fax: 503.234.2454
Website
Email