Bush Announces New Initiatives, Drug Czar
President Bush yesterday announced plans to expand the nation's drug treatment programs and nominated Philanthropy Roundtable President John Walters to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Washington Post reports. In what advocates call a "landmark step toward addressing a chronic therapy shortage," Bush suggested a "coming shift" in U.S. drug strategy from an "emphasis on reducing supply to a greater effort to cut demand." Bush has proposed boosting spending for treatment and treatment research next year by $245 million, a 7.7% increase, and by $1.6 billion over five years, including money for therapy targeting adolescents and teenagers. "[T]he most effective way to reduce the supply of drugs in America is to reduce the demand for drugs in America," Bush said. Administration officials said the new money for treatment "will be backed by enforcement programs that in some cases will throw people in jail if they fail to follow court orders for treatment." According to the Post, drug courts, which can sentence drug offenders to treatment rather than incarceration, will "carry out the threat" through a "coerced abstinence" program. "We've got to make sure that those who are hooked on drugs are treated," Bush said. As part of "a new approach to drug policy," Bush plans to establish a Parent Drug Corps to "mobilize" parents and families against illegal drug use, providing $25 million over five years to fund the program. Bush's budget also would increase the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism's budget by $41.5 million (Allen, Washington Post, 5/11). In addition, the president's budget would double funding for local anti-drug groups, providing $350 million over five years (Chen, Los Angeles Times, 5/11).
In addition to announcing Walters' appointment, Bush said that he would order a four-month, state-by-state review to determine "how to most effectively close the treatment gap in this country." He asked John DiIulio, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, to compile within 30 days a list of federally funded drug programs in community centers, houses of worship and other neighborhood locations (Washington Post, 5/11). In addition, he directed HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson to conduct a "state-by-state inventory of treatment needs." He also ordered Attorney General John Ashcroft to develop a "comprehensive plan" within 120 days to expand drug testing in prisons and among probationers and parolees and "strengthen" drug courts. Still, Bush said that he opposed drug legalization and medical marijuana (Los Angeles Times, 5/11).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.