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Jeff Hauser, 39, took one more breathalyzer for old time's sake Wednesday night.

"For nostalgia," Hauser said. "Then I never want to come back here again."

Wednesday, the Pennington County 24-7 Sobriety Program held an open house to its new facility at 111 New York St., Suite 300, adjacent to the Volunteers for America offices. Hauser actually worked as an electrician to renovate the building, and on Wednesday, with lemonade and cookies set out to welcome guests, he was back one more time. 

"It was a time of my life I've moved past," said Hauser. He participated in the program after a DUI conviction. Now, he's living sober with a renewed sense of purpose in his faith. "I was like Jonah," he said, "just running."

Two weeks ago Pennington County 24-7 opened in its new location. The proletarian sensibilities of the center, like a rental car waiting line, fit the pragmatic purpose. Every morning, roughly 400 men and women who are on supervised release or parole come in to take a breathalyzer. They return at night. It can take as little as a minute. During a week, some also provide a urine sample. Other participants download information from a bracelet, called a SCRAM, that samples sweat for vapors that could reveal alcohol.

"It's a great jail diversion program," said Sheriff Kevin Thom, who toured the facility. 

Operational since 2005, 24-7 is a pathway for parolees or folks on bond awaiting a court date. They can remain with families or hold down jobs while staying out of jail. According to Brian Mueller, chief deputy with the county, the facility runs itself, fiscally speaking. Breathalyzers cost participants $1. Urine analyses cost $10. SCRAMS require $6 a day.

It can get expensive over the course of months or maybe years.

"Only a few times, maybe twice, can I remember people being taken away who can't pay their fees," said Lucas Oyler, program director.

Violators — those who test positive or miss a required test — can be taken into custody or a warrant is issued for their arrest. But, generally, offenders are allowed limited grace; sometimes, if they miss a night test and they show up in the morning, they're given a verbal warning. A missed payment can be picked up next time, too, Oyler said.

"Once they let me run across the street to use the ATM," said Hauser. 

In 2014, a Montana state judge ruled the testing fees required by the 24/7 Sobriety Program before a defendant is tried in that state were unconstitutional. However, a year later, the state's supreme court unanimously upheld the program as constitutional.

Some sobriety literature sat at the ready on the table inside the doorway, but Mueller said at this time 24/7 does not provide treatment services. 

"The state is still looking for ways to shore up our services on that end."

Hauser admitted he failed a couple of tests and ended up overnight in jail. But, eventually, the cold confines of a jail cell was enough of a consequence to straighten out his alcohol use. 

"I wanted to be," here he ran his arm out in a straight line, "just like that."

As he left the facility Wednesday night, dozens of people were lined up outside to come in at 5:30 p.m. for their nightly check. Hauser was all smiles.

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Contact Christopher Vondracek at Christopher.Vondracek@rapidcityjournal.com.

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