GUEST COMMENTARY: Lack of DUI fees threatens anti-drug efforts

2014-04-10T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Lack of DUI fees threatens anti-drug effortsBy Beatrice Owen
April 10, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Every county in Indiana has a coalition of community members working to fight substance abuse. As envisioned by then-Gov. Evan Bayh and the state legislators, these coalitions would be self-funded by local drivers convicted of drunken driving.

By state law every DUI conviction includes a $200 countermeasure fee. These fees do not come from your taxes; they are user fees.

No judge in Porter County is collecting these state-mandated fees. Treatment, prevention and justice programs are now in jeopardy of continued funding.

For 25 years, the Porter County Substance Abuse Council has been part of the Governor’s Commission for a Drug-Free Indiana, addressing substance abuse in the county via grants to our local partners. Our 46-member organization includes schools, police departments, treatment facilities and more.

We take the state-mandated collected fees from DUI convictions and use them to grant fund programs throughout the county, including evidence-based, experiential, cutting edge, equipment and awareness-based programs.

Proper grant funding asks recipients to think sustainably. We have, and our members have responded. Many of the programs we fund are seed programs.

K-9 units at the Valparaiso and Portage Police Departments, and the Porter County Sheriff’s Department began because of our seed funding. The Drug Court began because of our groundwork. The county prosecutor’s Drug Task Force began because of our seed funding.

Our many partners have been providing quality programs to our community for years. In the last three years alone, we have funded 96 programs totaling $396,000. We funded six school districts, eight police departments, seven treatment/intervention facilities and three community organizations.

We have collaborated with organizations from Lake Michigan to the Kankakee River.

Our total office budget for the three years was $90,000. The total user fees spent for programs and administration was $486,000.

Today, these organizations and the programs they provide in our community are in peril. Our funding is in jeopardy. The work of the men and women providing desperately needed services in the county might cease.

As we have for 25 years, we will continue to work with the many partners, organizations and concerned citizens in the county. We have a countywide problem that warrants a countywide response. The problem is made even more difficult when funding is a moving target.

We hope the Porter County judges will reinstate the collection of the state-mandated countermeasure fees rather than continue to throw away funds that could be used to help this pressing problem.

Beatrice Owen is director of the Porter County Substance Abuse Council. The opinions are the writer's.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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