Counties Struggle to Fund Proposition 36 Treatment Programs for Non-Violent Drug Offenders
Many California counties have begun to run out of funds to comply with treatment program requirements under Proposition 36, and some have resorted to using general funds, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Under Proposition 36, the voter-approved ballot measure that sends nonviolent first- and second-time drug offenders to treatment rather than prison, the state's 58 counties receive a combined $120 million each year for treatment and law enforcement costs. However, higher-than-expected participation and offenders who have "plenty of other problems" -- including mental illnesses, poverty, homelessness and prior convictions -- have "strain[ed]" many counties' funding for the initiative. Prior to the initiative's implementation, the state legislative analyst's office predicted that 24,000 people would receive treatment under Proposition 36 each year. Although the program's annual enrollment figure will not be available until next month, an analysis of the program's first six months by the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs estimated that 12,000 offenders statewide were being referred to treatment. However, a more recent analysis of six selected counties completed by the Drug Policy Alliance, the organization that proposed the initiative in 2000, indicated that as of March, 13,695 people had enrolled. Further, the average Proposition 36 participant has had 14 prior arrests for "various ... things," not just drug-related offenses, Lydia Becerra, a spokesperson for Los Angeles County's alcohol and drug programs, said. Randy Snowden, director of alcohol and drug programs for Napa County, added, "Because so many [offenders] need much more extensive treatment than we had originally projected, there are insufficient facilities to handle all the cases, and there really isn't enough money to pay for the services they need." According to Snowden, the total cost of enacting Proposition 36 is three times the amount of money provided under the initiative. Despite the funding complications, many of the problems predicted by the initiative's critics, including a rise in litigation or lack of treatment facilities, have not occurred, the Chronicle reports (Wallace, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/2).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.