TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Funding accepted by Travis County Commissioners Court Tuesday will help aid and add new resources to the county’s DWI Court Program, a 15-year-long endeavor to counsel and assist repeat DWI offenders and divert them from jail.
Judge Elisabeth Earle oversees Travis County Court No. 7 and has served as judge of the DWI Court Program for the past 15 years. That program works with high-risk DWI offenders and offers both individual and group counseling services along with treatment.
Earle said the program is designed to help provide treatment and support resources for people struggling, with the 12-month program incorporating local criminal justice resources, case management and substance abuse treatment. She added the program’s participant graduation rate is more than 90%.
“It’s a day-to-day process for them,” Earle told commissioners Tuesday.
For a year now, county officials have been working to secure funds to purchase alcohol monitoring devices, which officials said are vital for keeping participants accountable and ensuring they aren’t consuming alcohol. The devices are mandatory for participants in the program, however, some prospective participants haven’t been able to participate due to financial barriers and inability to afford the costs.
Alejandro Garcia Limon, assistant director of diversion and specialty programs in the County Attorney’s Office, began working with community stakeholders and possible partners in the public and private sectors last year to identify available funding options.
Austin Public Health had funds available for the DWI Court Program to use. Officials said the funds will help remove any financial barriers that prevent participants from accessing treatment.
Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved accepting the funds from APH to cover the costs of the devices. That agreement signed between APH and Travis County covers costs for the devices up to $11,000, with the agreement running through Sept. 30, 2024.
“People are struggling out there and just this little bit will help them hopefully relieve some of the stress that gets them in this situation,” Earle said.
Prior to the commissioners’ vote, Commissioner Jeff Travillion said it’s important to divert people from the jail system and to give them a support system, network and path forward within their own community. He added county officials need to continually work to build out those support system resources to help stabilize participants in the long run.