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Wisconsin program helps rehabilitate repeat drunk drivers

Posted: 6:24 AM, Dec 20, 2018
Updated: 2018-12-20 14:00:02Z
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APPLETON — A program in Appleton is offering to help scores of repeat drunk drivers.

TODAY'S TMJ4 went to Outagamie County to see how it works there. This is part of our ongoing campaign Project: Drive Sober.

Debbie, who does not want to use her last name, says she knew she needed help after her third OWI conviction.

"I shocked myself into that reality that night, that I drove my car. Because I could have killed myself, or somebody else," said Debbie.

She is one of at least 85 percent of people who successfully completed SSTOP. It stands for Safe Street Treatment Options Program.

Along with an interlock device in her car, the most crucial help she found, was counseling.

OWI 2nd offenders who enroll in SSTOP can get up to get ten days taken off their jail sentence. OWI 3rd offenders get up to 60 days off. Since 2011, the program has saved offenders more than 33,000 nights in jail. At about $50 cost to house an inmate each night, that saved the county more than $1.6 million.

The director of Outagamie County's treatment services did not know the full impact, until he handed the numbers to a quantitative research professor at UW-Milwaukee.

"When I got the results, I was really holding my breath," said Bernie Vetrone, director of criminal justice treatment services at Outagamie County, "When I saw it, it just blew me away."

"The SSTOP participants had a 31-percent lower rate of OWI's than those who did not enroll in the SSTOP program," said Professor Tina Freiburger with UW-Milwaukee department of criminal justice.

Debbie is has advice for anyone who is going through what she did, "Don't fight it you know its the biggest thing."

We want you to get involved in the conversation. Please send us any story ideas you have for our Project: Drive Sober campaign to drivesober@tmj4.com

You can also call 866-WI-SOBER.