Alcohol safety program helps people get help

Posted: Sunday, May 07, 2000

When peninsula residents get stopped for driving under the influence, they can be assured of two things.

First, they probably will have their driver's licenses revoked for a while.

Second, they will be referred to the Alcohol Safety Action Program to determine if they need treatment for alcoholism.

ASAP is not a treatment facility itself. It is a program to determine what treatment may be appropriate, then it refers the client to a facility for treatment.

The two-person facility staff administers a questionnaire and uses that to determine the level of treatment appropriate -- ranging from an eight-hour class to residential treatment in Anchorage or Kodiak. ASAP also tracks the client to ensure the appropriate treatment is completed.

"There is no residential treatment on the peninsula," said Carla Lindhartsen, ASAP director.

What the peninsula does have is five state-approved treatment facilities the clients can choose from.

"It's up to the client," Lindhart-sen said. "A lot of it is location."

Location is an important factor in choosing a facility because clients are almost always without their driver's licenses and either walk or depend on rides from friends. Although many of ASAP's clients are assigned treatment, it is not the only way people come to use the program. Nor is it the only option.

"They can do jail instead of ASAP," Lindhartsen said. "It's that they're denying their probation.

"There's a catch in that. The catch is if it's a DWI, jail in lieu of ASAP is not good for the DMV."

The state Department of Motor Vehicles is where another large percentage of clients hear about ASAP.

After a driver's license is revoked for driving while intoxicated, the DMV requires proof of treatment to issue a new license.

"The sad thing about self-referrals is often they get caught driving without their license," Lindhartsen said. "They really want to get through it quickly. People wanting their license are the most anxious."

Lindhartsen said ASAP also has people come in after treatment is recommended by friends or family members.

"They don't need to be referred to us," she said.

But the service is not free.

Lindhartsen said administrative and personnel costs equal $100 per client. The fee is covered by fines in court-referred cases. There also are fees associated with treatment, payable to the facility.

"Some take insurance," she said.

Lindhartsen said most people she sees are not happy to be there but take a positive attitude nonetheless.

"We understand it is a difficult process," she said. "We want to help them get through."

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