Counties Prepare for Proposition 36 Implementation
California counties are "racing the clock" to prepare for the July 1 implementation of Proposition 36, the ballot initiative approved by voters last November that calls for non-violent drug offenders to receive treatment instead of jail time, the San Jose Mercury News reports. One of the biggest concerns among the counties is that the measure provides funding for neither drug testing -- which many prosecutors and treatment providers "consider a key element in determining whether treatment is working" -- nor supervision, which is essential to public safety, according to law enforcement and corrections officials. State Sen. John Burton (D-San Francisco) has proposed a bill (SB 223) that would allocate $18 million in the first year for counties to provide testing. The measure goes before the Senate's public safety committee next week (Pope, San Jose Mercury News, 4/8). However, the Chicago Tribune reports that some observers believe the bill "has little chance of passing given the state's need to tackle the energy crisis" (Haynes, Chicago Tribune, 4/9).
Beyond funding issues, counties are trying to prepare for the estimated 37,000 new offenders statewide who will qualify for treatment after July 1. According to the state Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, the level of preparation varies "from soup to nuts," depending on a county's past experience with drug treatment and the extent of the drug problem in a particular county. For example, Santa Clara County "for years" has been sending some drug offenders to treatment through its drug court intervention program and "now figures it's way ahead of the curve," the Mercury News reports. Still, the county's program is "staggering under the caseload," with 4,800 people currently in treatment, and officials expect 1,700 to 2,300 additional offenders to qualify under Proposition 36 (San Jose Mercury News, 4/9). In San Diego County, prosecutors want to establish "specialized courts ... to handle exclusively Proposition 36 cases," while the Orange County Probation Department has begun recruiting new officers to help with implementation. In Los Angeles County, the Tarzana Treatment Center has added a two-story, 15,000 square foot wing to cope with the additional patients (Chicago Tribune, 4/9). Maria Caudill, spokesperson for the state alcohol and drug programs department, said, "Most counties are putting final touches on implementation plans. Some, like Santa Clara, Los Angeles and Sacramento, got a jump-start. Others are just in the beginning phases and are trying to grapple with the larger issue of how they're going to make it work" (San Jose Mercury News, 4/8).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.