People arrested on drug or alcohol-related crimes in Hill County have a new option, with Havre's branch of the 24/7 Sobriety Program which officially started this morning.
The program requires participants to come to the Havre Police Department twice a day, between 7 and 8 a. m. and again between 7 and 8 p. m., to take a breathalyzer test every day. They can be assigned to the program as a condition of release, while they wait for trial, or as a corrective action in a final sentencing.
This method first appeared in Montana as a pilot project in Lewis and Clark County in May 2010, under then-Attorney General Steve Bullock.
Impressed by the results, Bullock pushed for the 2011 state Legislature to implement the policy statewide.
House Bill 106 did that when it was passed. It has now led to 23 countries participating in the program.
Assistant Chief Gabe Matosich has been coordinating the entire local justice system to make the program possible in Hill County.
Matosich said he has been and will be working with the Hill County Sheriff's Office, the local Montana Highway Patrol, Justice Court, City Court, District Court, Drug and DUI Court and the Juvenile Probation Office.
"It took everybody to come together to get this to work, " Matosich said. "Without everyone chipping in, we couldn't have done this. "
One of the points Bullock particularly liked about the program was its being paid for by participants and not taxpayers. Matosich said participants have to pay $2 for each breathalyzer test. If they can't make the trip, they can choose to wear a SCRAM bracelet that will test for alcohol every half-hour all day, for $10 per day.
On this first morning, six people came in to test. Matosich believes that number will at least triple in the next few months.
The program in other parts of the state has claimed a success rate of more than 99 percent. Matosich has faith that Havre will see the same success and the accompanying community improvement.
"It has a huge affect in deterring DUI-related, drug- and alcohol-related crimes, driving under the influence, as well as the assaults and the other crimes that go on as well, " Matosich said. "This is a huge changing of behavior for these individuals that are always drinking. "