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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Budget Cuts Affect Addiction Treatment

As more and more states cut funding to mental health care, drug and alcohol treatments are feeling the effects due to the fact that addiction treatment falls under the umbrella of mental health care. Whenever it seems like mental health care is being looked after by state officials, there always seems to be some back door channel where funding gets allocated away from those who need it the most. One such state that has been hit hard by mental health care cuts is Maine, where it soon may force the closure of 10 out of 13 residential treatment centers, the Maine Public Broadcasting Network reported March 9. The proposed $5.6 million cut by Maine Governor Paul Le Page, would hurt substance abuse treatments so heavily that most treatment centers will not be able to continue operations.

"It's the classic pennywise-pound foolish, because we treat people at less than half the cost of the corrections community," said Roger Prince of a substance abuse treatment program that is over 40 years old. So what do we want to do? Do we want to close this place down and send [our clients] back to jail or to the emergency room? It makes no sense to me," he said. 40 percent of the treatment center program's budget, or over $500,000, will vanish with the cuts, according to Bangor Daily News. "There is no way I can make that up from other sources," said Pat Kimball, the agency's executive director. "People who need residential care are the most chronically ill people in the state," she said. "If we close our doors today, over half our clients would return to jail, one-third would be homeless and only 13 percent would be able to live with family or friends."

At a time when it is clearer than ever that jail and prison are not the answer to keeping the streets safe, it is sad to hear that government officials are going against scientific data. People suffering from addiction belong in treatment and if the government is paying for the bill one way or the other, treatment is always the more cost effective route to go. Action needs to be taken to protect those afflicted as well as use public funding the most efficiently, treatment is the soundest solution.

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