The Otter Tail County DWI Court team has earned the 2021 Excellence in Corrections Award by the Minnesota Association of County Probation Officers. The award is presented to a corrections program that has demonstrated outstanding leadership and development in the field of probation.

“During a lock-down or stay-at-home order, everyone experiences an increase in anxiety and/or depression, at least to some degree,” said Michael Schommer, Otter Tail County’s director of probation, in a press release. “We also know these are triggers for drug and alcohol relapse. The team wanted to support their clients during these challenging times.”

Every Monday, all DWI Court participants received a weekly wellness challenge. The wellness challenges varied, from engaging in outdoor scavenger hunts to picture challenges to building birdhouses. Everyone who completed the challenge for that week was entered into a drawing to win a gift card. The challenges were voluntary, and Agent Hallie Metcalf reported that the events received full participation.

Alongside the wellness challenges to keep clients' mental health engaged, in-person visits continued with Metcalf and Surveillance Officer Mike Engel. Drug and alcohol testing, along with remote court hearings, were continued, and client meetings through virtual platforms increased.

“Despite a pandemic where we are seeing unparalleled mental health issues across the country, the Otter Tail County DWI Court Program incurred only three known drug or alcohol relapses during the height of the pandemic,” Schommer told the Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners.