Bush Proposes 6% Increase for Drug Treatment in FY 2003, Hopes to Reduce Illegal Drug Use by 25% in Five Years
President Bush, hoping to reduce illegal drug use in the United States by 25% over the next five years, yesterday unveiled a new plan to "reorient federal drug policy toward treatment rather than enforcement," the Washington Post reports. Bush also hopes to reduce drug use by 10% over the next two years. He has proposed a 6% increase in federal funding for drug treatment and research in fiscal year 2003 -- to $3.8 billion -- part of a 2% increase in the nation's anti-drug budget, to $19 billion (Milbank/Thompson, Washington Post, 2/13). In addition, Bush proposed $644 million for federal programs that promote drug-free schools and communities and $180 million for advertisements that inform youths about the dangers of drug use in FY 2003 (Keen, USA Today, 2/13). "We must aggressively promote drug treatment. Because a nation that is tough on drugs must also be compassionate to those addicted to drugs," Bush said (Borenstein, Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/13). He added that treatment programs would target the "most vulnerable" drug users, such as pregnant women, the homeless, individuals with HIV/AIDS and teenagers (USA Today, 2/13). He also called for "armies of compassion" -- led by religious institutions, communities and families -- to urge drug addicts "not to use drugs in the future" (AP/Baltimore Sun, 2/13). According to Bush, illegal drugs kill as many as 20,000 Americans per year and cost the U.S. health care system about $15 billion per year (Marquis, New York Times, 2/13). John Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said that he plans to increase the number of residential treatment facilities and "emphasized continued treatment for recovering addicts."
Several drug policy groups praised Bush's new strategy. "We're really pleased that it is focusing more on treatment," Pat Ford-Roegner, executive director of the Association for Addiction Professionals, said (Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/13). Adele Harrell, a drug policy expert at the Urban Institute, called Bush the "first president to approach" the issue of drug abuse with an "appreciation of the importance" of drug treatment (Gerstenzang, Los Angeles Times, 2/13). However, a number of groups criticized Bush's drug policy and said that the president's spending on treatment was not sufficient. They pointed out the "7-to-1 disparity in favor of law enforcement." Bush yesterday proposed a 10% rise -- to $2.3 billion -- in drug interdiction spending, the "sharpest increase in the budget over last year." Rachel King, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, said, "Unless the president commits to funding treatment and controlling demand ... the administration will inevitably fail in its goal of cutting drug use by a full quarter by 2007" (New York Times, 2/13). According to Mike Brady, public policy consultant for the California Senate, "Frankly, if [Bush] is talking about 6% more for treatment programs and 10% more for drug interdiction, I think he should just spend the whole 16% on treatment." He added that treatment programs cost about $3,000 to $6,000 per year, while incarceration of drug offenders costs at least $25,000 per year (Los Angles Times, 2/13). Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance called Bush's drug policy a "continuation of the failed policies of the last 30 years" and accused the president of "giving the most money to interdiction and giving lip service to treatment by throwing a few more dollars at it" (USA Today, 2/13).
Several lawmakers and administration officials expressed support for the president's drug policy. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who sponsored legislation with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) to "dramatically increase" drug treatment programs, said that he welcomes the new policy. U.S. Customs Service Commissioner Robert Bonner said that Bush's emphasis on drug treatment over interdiction "heartened" him. Asa Hutchinson, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, added, "Clearly, his budget reflects what he's talked about -- the importance of combining strong enforcement with treatment programs and education." However, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), said, "While the president claims that we need to aggressively promote treatment, he actually proposes to spend seven times more money on drug interdiction" (Washington Post, 2/13).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.