Wisti awarded for his efforts as treatment hero

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette 97th District Court Judge Mark Wisti sits in his chambers Monday. Wisti received a Treatment Hero award for his work with the regional treatment court.

HOUGHTON — The area’s regional treatment court was the first in the country.

Now a statewide organization has recognized 97th District Court Judge Mark Wisti for his work in creating and continuing it.

Wisti was given a Treatment Court Hero award Tuesday from the Michigan Association of Treatment Court Professionals (MATCP).

“This is really a recognition of the court,” he said. “And it’s from your peers. I’m just really proud and excited to receive the award.”

The 97th District Court’s treatment court covers Baraga, Houghton and Keweenaw counties. Instead of a jail sentence, some people charged with drug or alcohol-related offenses are put into the treatment court, a rigorous court-monitored program designed to keep them independent of drugs and alcohol. About 75 percent of the people put into the program complete it successfully, Wisti said.

“You see people get transformed in that court,” he said.

A MATCP release accompanying the award credited Wisti with changing the perception of the treatment court for participants initially wary of it.

“He holds participants responsible but treats them with respect and compassion,” the release stated. “He is very effective at engaging and motivating participants through a perfect combination of compassion and humor.”

There are four regional jails in the state. When others have contacted Wisti for advice, he’s told them the key to success is the people who are working on the treatment team.

“It’s a team concept involving substance abuse counselors, case managers, defense lawyers, the Houghton County Sheriff’s Department and the prosecuting attorney, and it really is a team effort,” he said.