New FBI Director’s Confirmation Hearing, Program Piloted In Wisconsin Aims To Assess The Mental Health Issues Underlying Drunken Driving, Wages In Wisconsin

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Unemployment is at a historical low in the state, but how will wages respond? An economist talks about where they’re headed and about the possible movement of technology manufacturer Foxconn to Wisconsin. Plus, we talk to a White House reporter about Christopher Wray’s confirmation hearing Wednesday to become the next FBI Director.

Featured in this Show

  • Christopher Wray's Confirmation Hearing

    On Wednesday President Trump’s nominee for director of the FBI testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee for his nomination hearing. Christopher Wray is a former assistant attorney general under former President George W. Bush. We talk to a reporter about the hearings and Wray’s future in Washington D.C.

  • Program Piloted In Wisconsin Aims To Assess The Mental Health Issues Underlying Drunken Driving, Craft Treatment Options

    Wisconsin was one of the first states to pilot a program–called CARS–that assesses underlying mental health issues in people who have been convicted on a drunken driving offense. We speak to Sarah Nelson of Cambridge Health Alliance about the program and the impact its had in states that have implemented it.

  • Wisconsin One Of First To Pilot Program Addressing Ties Between Mental Health, Driving Drunk

    In 2015, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation recorded nearly 24,000 drunken driving offenses. That same year, 190 people were killed and almost 2,900 people were injured in alcohol-related crashes in the state.

    When it comes to punishing people convicted of drunken driving offenses, the options are usually jail or prison time, fines, sobriety classes or some sort of combination, and sometimes counties offer drug courts. But Wisconsin was one of the first states to pilot a program assessing offenders for underlying and untreated mental health conditions that might exacerbate these dangerous tendencies in order to prevent people from reoffending.

    The Computerized Assessment and Referral System — or CARS — is a diagnostic tool first introduced in Massachusetts before being tested at six sites nationwide, including the IMPACT program in Milwaukee. CARS uses an adapted version of the World Health Organization’s Composite International Diagnostic Interview — or CIDI — which is used internationally to assess mental health conditions through a questionnaire.

    Sarah Nelson is the associate director of research for the Division on Addiction at Cambridge Health Alliance in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She helped work on the CARS program. She said taking a holistic approach could help reduce the rates of recidivism.

    “We’ve learned from our past research that many repeat DUI offenders, the people who continue to offend despite sanctions, often suffer from mental health issues beyond just substance use disorders,” Nelson said, naming anxiety and depression as examples. “We’ve also found that many of these individuals have never been screened or assessed for these problems.”

    CARS provides immediate personalized information about the possible mental health disorders someone may have or is at risk of having. It also provides a summary of risk factors and a list of resources specific to the challenges of the person being examined, according to the CARS website.

    She said mental health is not frequently addressed when people go through either driver’s education or substance abuse education programs. And when the mental health disorders are left untreated, people can be emotionally triggered and offend again. The hope, Nelson said, is that by having the court system or counselors use the CARS program they’ll be able to create better treatments for those individuals.

    Nelson said another goal of the program was to make it easy to use. Through the piloting program, researchers were able to work with groups providing support and treatment to DUI offenders to make the program as effective as possible.

    “We worked with (these programs) to find something that was the right length of time, that had the right amount of flexibility. And what we found was that both the staff and the clients at those programs found the tool usable,” she said. “And they also really appreciated the report that it generated with just the click of a button. It generates a diagnostic report about those mental health issues.”

    According to a report from, which worked to launch the CARS program, Milwaukee’s IMPACT program conducted more than 4,000 assessments of people convicted of a drunken driving offense. They found more than 77 percent of IMPACT’s clients who received the CARS assessment completed their programs. The statewide average, according to the report, is 68 percent.

    CARS is now available nationwide.

  • With Low Unemployment, What's Next For Jobs And Wages In Wisconsin?

    With unemployment at a historical low in Wisconsin, an expert on the state’s labor market looks at what’s happening with wages and the possible impact of a rumored Foxconn plant opening in Racine.

Episode Credits

  • Rob Ferrett Host
  • Kate Archer Kent Host
  • Amanda Magnus Producer
  • J. Carlisle Larsen Producer
  • Rob Ferrett Producer
  • Darren Samuelsohn Guest
  • Sarah Nelson Guest
  • Steve Deller Guest

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