DUI treatment court in Missoula lands $118K from highway safety grant

An increase in funding from the Montana Department of Transportation this year will help Missoula County bolster its DUI treatment court and increase the number of participants.

Commissioners on Thursday approved a $118,000 state Highway Traffic Safety Grant to fund the country’s ROAD Court, which is administered by Justice Court.

Justice of the Peace Landee Holloway said it’s the third year the grant has been awarded.

“It solely funds our road court, which is our DUI treatment and accountability court,” Holloway said. “The program takes about a year for a participant to graduate and move through the phases. To date, we’ve had seven graduations.”

The additional funds will enable the program to grow the number of participants from 20 to 30, Holloway said. A portion of the funding also pays for dependency treatment, ensuing what Holloway described as continuity of care.

The participant’s treatment provider is part of a ROAD Court team which also includes a defense attorney, a prosecutor, and misdemeanor and probation officer from Missoula Correctional Services, and a judge.

There’s also a representative from law enforcement, Holloway said.

“It’s an option for misdemeanor DUIs, high blood alcohol or repeat DUIs – primarily your second or third offender,” Holloway said. “Sometimes there’s an occasional traffic alcohol offense that doesn’t come in through a DUI that can be screened.”

Judges and attorneys can make a referral to the program, and the ROAD Court coordinator conducts the screening process. Holloway said participants must be considered a high risk, have high needs and have a substance abuse disorder.

Those selected to participate must also want to do the program, which comes with benefits.

“Part of the incentive for doing the program is that 70% of their fines will be waived, and all of their jail time,” Holloway said. “That’s significant, and it’s significant to the county costs. On a third DUI there’s a mandatory of 30 days of jail time.”

County commissioners praised the program on Thursday.

“It demonstrates that Missoula County is trying to be more than punitive when it comes to the criminal just system and is trying to help people out on a most basic level,” said Commissioner Josh Slotnick.