State stung by task force resignations

In their resignation letter, the four accused the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s Statewide Impaired Driving Task Force of focusing “on interventions that have little impact or are not proven to be effective.” They cited various slights that led them to conclude the state was uninterested in their input.

State auditors say two family planning clinics overbilled Medicaid for $3.5 million, largely for birth control; the providers say the state is using the wrong reimbursement rate. Now Republican legislators are seeking an audit of all such clinics in Wisconsin.

Family planning clinics say state audits could force many to close

Two family planning clinics serving low-income women say their operations will be at serious financial risk if state auditors stand firm on claims that they overbilled Medicaid by $3.5 million, largely for birth control drugs and devices.

“My hunch is that if any one of us were audited it would come out the same way. We’re all operating the same way,” said Beth Hartung, president of the Wisconsin Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association. “It would mean, quite frankly, that we would all close.”

Racine County Judge Gerald Ptacek applauds after a defendant relates a story of success or progress in Racine County's Alcohol and Drug Treatment Court during this April 2012 session. Drug courts such as this one in Racine are seen as an effective way to cut incarceration costs and recidivism. But minority defendants in Wisconsin tend to be underrepresented in these diversion programs.

Experts: Drug choice, not race, fuels disparities in Wisconsin drug courts

According to a recent study by Washington University in St. Louis, 90 percent of heroin users are white, and most are young and live in the suburbs. By contrast, hospital studies show that African-Americans are much more likely than whites to abuse cocaine. And one University of Wisconsin-Madison expert said heroin addicts tend to commit less violent crimes than those on cocaine; many drug courts exclude violent offenders from participating. The result: Some drug courts, such as the one in Dane County, are now full of white heroin users.

Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas conducts a hearing with advocates of a drug court participant, who is out of the frame. Colas provided access to the court but forbade photography of defendants to protect their privacy.

Wisconsin drug courts grow, but racial disparities persist

In 2012, about one-third of those arrested for drug crimes in Dane County were black, according to the state Office of Justice Assistance. But African-Americans made up just 10 percent of those participating in the county’s drug court that year, according to Journey Mental Health, a Madison nonprofit that provides treatment and case management for the program.

An infant monkey plays at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center. Infant monkeys in psychiatrist Dr. Ned Kalin’s study will be exposed to adversity to study its effect on young brains.

University of Wisconsin to reprise controversial monkey studies

UW-Madison psychiatry professor Ned Kalin received approval to conduct the first experiment on campus in more than 30 years that will intentionally deprive newborn monkeys of their mothers, a practice designed to impact a primate’s psychological well-being. The protocol drew unusual debate from oversight committees, and it has raised questions about the degree of suffering acceptable in an experimental design with uncertain outcomes.