Proposition 36 – California’s Addiction Treatment Under Attack!!!

If you’re not from CA, you may not know about proposition 36.

It’s a law, passed by voters in 2000, that mandates treatment, not incarceration, for people arrested on drug charges. Defendants can chose whether to accept it or not if they’re eligible, and before I get angry responses from my “red-state” readers, only non-violent, possession only arrests are eligible for Prop 36 participation (I, for instance, was NOT eligible).

Well, like so much else, Prop 36 is on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proverbial chopping block. California is in a state of fiscal emergency, and addiction treatment is one of the first things to seem like an unnecessary public welfare program.

But, if funding for Prop 36 disappears, many California counties are going to be left in trouble.

This is why:

  • Over 40,000 people are referred for assessment under proposition 36 every year. If funding disappears, they will all, by law, still have the right to request treatment, there will just be no funding for it.
  • Of the total people referred, more than 80% get assessed for treatment, and more than 80% of those actually get into treatment. That’s 31,772 people that got treatment for their addiction instead of sitting in a jail cell in 2007.
  • With the average cost of incarceration exceeding $30,000 removing funding for the program will either break CA law or break the banks of the counties and the state.

I understand the need to be fiscally responsible in a crisis like the one we’re facing, but as it stands, Prop 36 is the law, and treatment helps more people stay out of jail than incarceration.

If funding stops, the state is going to shoot itself in the foot, having to pay for these people through another program, taking the money away from services  that were deemed important enough to stay on the books.

2 responses to “Proposition 36 – California’s Addiction Treatment Under Attack!!!”

  1. Prop 36 lost it’s funding in 2009. It is now a peer lead group of sorts. At least in Santa Barbara County, it lost the funding a few years back. Drug Court is still available and more people, with more serious charges like me and it sounds like you, would qualify. I would like to see a National availability for Drug Court. It makes sense to treat and not incarcerate. For every dollar spent on treatment it saves seven in incarceration cost.

    • Thanks for writing Kathleen,
      Although Prop 36 lost its State funding in 2009, it was covered by ARRA money (the stimulus) through most of 2010 but now is essentially an unfunded mandate. Drug courts are good for some groups of people but offer way too much supervision for most drug users…

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