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Bush Drug Treatment, Prevention, and Recovery Budget Cuts Raise Chorus of Criticism

The Bush administration's proposed Fiscal Year 2009 spending for drug treatment, prevention, and recovery includes significant funding cuts for some programs, and that has critics ranging from former federal drug warriors to the treatment and recovery community crying foul. While economic pressures may necessitate a lean budget, say the critics, cutting drug treatment, prevention, and recovery is not the way to do it.

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Bush administration drug strategy report and budget
Overall, substance abuse treatment and prevention funding within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the main conduit for such funds, will decrease from $2.35 billion this year to $2.27 billion next year. (See details of the SAMHSA budget here.) Other highlights and lowlights of the treatment, prevention, and recovery budgets include:

  • Funding for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant program would see a small increase to $1.779 billion, but that increase would be earmarked for the most effective existing grant recipients.
  • The Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) would receive $336.7 million, a decrease of $63 million from FY 2008, and a number of programs would be zeroed out, including the Recovery Community Support Program. Other losers include the Treatment Systems for the Homeless program (cut from $42.5 million to $32.6 million) and the Opioid Treatment Program/Regulatory Activities (cut from $8.9 million to $6 million). But funding for the Access to Recovery grant program would remain unchanged at $99.7 million, and drug court funding would increase from $15 million to $37 million.
  • The Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) would receive $158 million, a decrease of $36 million from FY 2008.
  • Funding for the Center for Mental Health Services would be cut by $126 million.
  • The Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities (SDFSC) State Grants program, which supports community-based prevention programming through the Department of Education, would receive $100 million, a decrease of $194.8 million.
  • The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) would receive $1.002 billion, a nearly $1 million increase over FY 2008.
  • The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) would receive $436.68 million, a $0.4 million increase over last year's funding.

"We're very concerned about these cuts and looking forward to working with Congress to restore the funding," said Pat Taylor, executive director of Faces and Voices of Recovery, a national organization advocating for those affected by substance abuse problems. "We're especially concerned about the elimination of the Recovery Community Services Program -- it's the only program that funds community recovery services," she said.

Even though the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) report that accompanied the Bush budget claimed such programs are ineffective, thus justifying their being cut, Taylor said that report was wrong. "We know from the government's own data that these programs are highly effective at a relatively low cost," she said. "Funding has gone to organizations that have leveraged tens of thousands of volunteer hours in communities around the country."

"There's not a lot of money for treatment and prevention as it is," said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. "Bush is also cutting law enforcement," Piper said, referring to proposed cuts in the Byrne Justice Action Grants program, "but we know which one Congress is more likely to restore."

"I've argued for years that it's a gross distortion of resources to deny as much funding as necessary for drug treatment, prevention, and education. That is how we stop the link between drugs and crime," said Robert Weiner, who as public affairs director under drug czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey frequently earned reformers' ire (on other issues). Weiner added that two-thirds of arrestees test positive for illegal drugs. "If we prevent it on the front side before forcing them into prison, we save literally billions of dollars and make productive citizens out of these people. The federal drug budget needs to be refigured to change its priorities," he said.

Weiner also had harsh words for the current drug czar, John Walters, for failing to protect his bureaucratic fiefdom. Under Walters, the drug budget under the control of ONDCP has declined from $19 billion to $13 billion.

"That's outrageous," Weiner complained. "Walters has his head in the sand and has been ceding authority. The point of his office was to create an overseer to ride herd on drug policy, but instead, Walters has just been a lackey to this politics of fear and terror and homeland security and has given away the store. It's not just individual programs, but an overall ceding of authority, and that's a shame."

Weiner isn't the only former federal drug warrior taking pot-shots at the Bush administration's drug policy spending priorities. John Carnevale, who served under four different drug czars and helped set federal drug budgets and strategies, ripped into the Bush administration earlier this month with a policy brief charging that it had consistently emphasized the least effective aspects of drug control policy.

According to Carnevale, supply reduction (law enforcement, interdiction, eradication) spending has grown 57% during the Bush years, while demand reduction (treatment, prevention, recovery) spending has increased by only 3%. The ratio between supply reduction and demand reduction spending is about 2:1, near where it has been historically despite repeated claims by federal drug fighters that they are shifting to a more balanced approach.

As Carnevale notes, "Research suggests that treatment and prevention programs are very effective in reducing drug demand, saving lives, and lessening health and crime consequences. It has demonstrated that attacking drugs at their source by focusing on eradication is expensive and not very effective. It has demonstrated that interdiction has little effect on drug traffickers' ability to bring drugs into the United States and on to our street corners where they are sold."

Perversely, however, interdiction funding increased the most during the Bush years, doubling from $1.9 billion in 2002 to $3.8 billion in 2009, while source country funding increased by 50%, law enforcement by 31%, and treatment by only 22%. Spending for drug prevention, on the other hand, actually declined by 25%.

"If research were our guide," wrote Carnevale, "then one would expect the opposite ordering of increases in budgetary resources for drug control. The failure to incorporate research into the budgetary process is a lost opportunity to produce results. The only positive news in this decade is the reduction in youth drug use, a trend which started in the previous decade. Today's discussion of drug policy performance overlooks the fact that adult drug use and rates of addiction remain unchanged in this decade."

The chorus of critics is not just complaining. Led by the treatment and recovery community, moves are afoot in Congress to seek a better mix when it comes to drug policy funding. Look for battles to come in committee hearing rooms and floor votes as advocates seek to restore funding to useful and effective programs.

"These cuts are very shortsighted and I don't think they will stand," said Taylor. "We are working with many allied organizations to support a different budget proposal that we will be distributing on Capitol Hill next week. There is a lot of interest there in moving forward instead of back."

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Treatment/harm reduction

sicntired I've been attending a lot of meetings. lately and there's one thing that's becoming very clear.The treatment and abstinence community is very afraid that harm reduction measures will detract from their monopoly on drug treatment and their hold on the high ground on the drug issue.After 100 years of a monopoly on treatment and a lions share of funding and publicity aimed at funding their programs.The just say no crowd is feeling a tad vulnerable.That their programs have been historically inefficient in their goals and success stats is undeniable.With people now looking for alternatives to their old and relatively unsuccessful methods.Abstinence proponents are crying foul and asking for more time and money to prove that what they have been doing deserves a stronger voice.It was only after not being invited to several meetings of the local harm reduction and anti-drug war crowd that they stomped off in disgust and said they would form their own group.After years of ignoring advocates for reform as a bunch of deluded lunatics.The Nancy Regan crowd wanted in when harm reduction advocates seemed to be capturing some influence in the media.They saw no conflict in this line of thinking and were hurt that their views were not being represented at meetings of the harm reduction groups.That their views haven't changed in the 40 years of the drug war and that we in harm reduction and law reform know exactly where they are coming from makes no difference to them.There is always going to be a need for treatment programs and even the current models with their low success statistics have a role to play.Current treatment requires that a person accept a higher power and goes through a 12 step approach.This can be successful in a very small percentage of the addict population.There are other,long term and very expensive treatment programs that have as high as a 10% success rate with hard core addicts and they should retain that share of the treatment budget.Drugs like marijuana do not require an extensive treatment program and in most cases do not require treatment at all.There are programs that accept pot"addicts" as a means to raise their success rates.That doesn't make them valid.Heroin,like alcohol,is a life long addiction.Once an addict,always an addict.People deny this at their peril.I understand that to an addictive personality,any drug can be a devastating habit.With most drugs a long term treatment program will be successful in all but very addictive personalities.This is what I have seen over 40 years of drug use and abuse and I believe it to be true for most cases.There are always exceptions and there is room in the field for any and every program that works for even a small number of people.It's a matter of prioritizing the funding by putting it where it will do the most good.Not throwing people in prison for their personal choices is a good place to start.

Leave people to their own choices in life

When is the majority going to learn that a vice is NOT a crime, and an addict is NOT a criminal (though he could become one if his access to his drug of addiction is made too difficult, or the drug of addiction too expensive). PEOPLE SHOULD BE FREE TO CHOOSE their own high, their own method of intoxication, without restrictions of any kind. Government and busybodies cannot successfully legislate morality, it is impossible; and it is stupid to even attempt to do so. Such stupidity results in increases in organized crimes, gangland massacres, and corruption in law enforcement, we've seen this over and over; enough so that we should have learnt better, by now.

If an addiction becomes too disruptive of a person's life, treatment might become desireable (though most people can kick any addiction if the desire or need to do so is great enough). Otherwise, if drug use does not become disruptive (and for the vast majority of drug users, that IS the case), then a drug user has no desire to seek out treatment, and most especially does not want treatment forced upon him/her (which force, btw, is patently unconstitutional).

Those who are not religious, who are agnostic or atheist, or those who belong to a non-Christian religion do NOT want to be placed into a treatment program where Christianity, or even just a "higher power", is the main theme, as in most "12 step" programs. Drug use is personal and individual, and there are as many reasons for it as there are drug users, and as many reasons for quitting the drug as there are those who desire to quit. Pushing all who seek treatment (or are unconstitutionally forced into treatment) into one treatment paradigm can not possibly have a very good rate of success.

Waste of money

With the huge budget deficits in federal and state governments, the drug war is the last thing on which the government at any level should be spending so much as a single penny.

Shameful

As someone who is fairly new to the subject of established abuse prevention, I can't believe the large amount of money these "abuse prevention" folks are receiving despite budget cuts?

NIDA: "Researchers have long recognized the strong correlation between stress and substance abuse." (an article on substance abuse at their website)

Have you ever seen an abuse prevention program that prominently discusses the harm of abnormal stress to "We the people"? I have not.

Why is the education of one's abnormal stress identification and resolution virtually, if not completely, non-existent?

Such education (if done right) can strongly improve society in many ways.

Since drug use and drug abuse are equal to these folks, and that such equation is baseless, these people receiving this large amount of money, are discredited. They are useless to society.

Why do we have a separate institute for alcohol? Alcohol is a drug, and it should fall under the NIDA?

It's no wonder why substance abuse is the problem that it is, and it's truly scary that many responsible drug users are the scapegoat.

Legislating Morality

When will these narrow minded, holier then thou politicians wake up and notice that this inane "prohibition on marajuana" is nothing but a waste of money, resources, and time. Look at the research and start making informed decisions you morons!

CHRONIC PAIN PATIENTS

THE WAR ON DOCTORS AND CPP IS OUT OF CONTROLL. PEOPLE ARE SUFFERING DUE TO NOT BEINGTREATED FOR CHRONIC PAIN,VETS RISL THEIR LIFES FOR US, AND HOW DO THEY GET TREATED, UNDER CARE FOR CHRONIC PAIN,AMOUNG CANCER PATIENTS ,CHRONIC PAIN PATIENTS,NONE OF THEM ASK FOR THEIR LIVES TO TURN OUT THIS WAY.AND UNTIL YOU WALK IN ANY OF OUR SHOES, YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO OPEN YOUR MOUTH AND USE YOUR TITLE TO GET AHEAD BY MAKING CPP SUFFER .I THOUGHT WE LIVED IN ."THE LAND OF THE FREE" FREEDOM OF SPEECH. BUT NO YOU HAVE DOCTORS WHO WONT TREAT PEOPLE DUE TO THE GOV,ECT. WHAT IF IT WAS SOMEONE YOU LOVED,WOULD YOU ENJOY WATCHING THEM SUFFER AND NOT HAVE A LIFE,AT LEAST WHERE THEY CAN GET OUT OF BED ,OUT SIDE ,WALK FROM ROOM TO ROOM.ENJOY FAMILY, HECK NO THEY ARE HURTING NO ONE, FOR THE SACK OF GOD ,LET US LIVE ,LET THE DOCTORS TREAT PATIENTS, NOT TURN THEM AWAY, WHAT HAS COME TO THIS WORLD,YOU DONT EVEN CARE ABOUT YOUR OWN PEOPLE.HOW WOULD U LIKE TO SPEND YOUR LIFE NOT BEING ABLE TO G PLACES,SIMPLE THINGS IN THAT MEAN SO MUCH, YOUVE TAKEN AWAY FROM THE CPP. SO FOR THE DEA,GOV. AND WHO EVER HAS CONTROLL NEEDS TO CHANGE THIS ,PEOPLE ARE SUFFERING IN PAIN. AND YOU JUST DONT GIVE A DARN. I DONT WISH IT ON ANYONE.BUT BUT ID IT WAS YOUR LIFE ,WHAT WOULD U DO.CHRONIC PAIN KILLS, YES ITS KILLS AND THATS WITHOUT PAIN CARE MEDS .SO THINK ABOUT THAT.WHOS GOING TO BE RESPONCEABLE FOR THOSE WHO DIE FROM NO TREATMENT OR UNDERTREATMENT OF CHRONIC PAIN. DUE YOUR RESEARCH....

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