More ‘Hard-Core Addicts’ Than Expected Sentenced to Treatment Through Proposition 36
Many of the drug offenders sentenced to treatment under Proposition 36 have "severe" addictions and "need more therapy than expected," the Sacramento Bee reports. Proposition 36 is the voter-approved initiative that directs some nonviolent offenders to drug treatment instead of prison. Although there are no official statistics yet, officials "have been struck by" the number of "hard-core addicts" who have been sentenced to treatment instead of prison under the new law, which took effect July 1. Bill Demers, president of a statewide association of county drug program administrators, said, "We thought we would get a lot more low-level substance abuse cases. We're getting more on the higher end. I think what it says is that there are a lot of people with drug and alcohol problems out there." Operators of Sacramento's Proposition 36 program estimated that seven of 10 offenders would require the "lowest level of outpatient treatment" -- three months of therapy and up to six months of follow-up -- but only one-third of offenders sentenced through Proposition 36 have been assigned to that group. Another two-thirds of offenders have required six months of treatment and up to six months of follow-up. Offenders also have "longer and more serious criminal histories" than officials expected. In addition, nearly one-third have a mental illness, two-thirds are unemployed and one-third require "vocational training." Toni Moore, Sacramento County's alcohol and drug administrator, said, "You're talking about a needy group." If the majority of offenders sentenced through Proposition 36 continue to be serious addicts, costs for the program could increase. In Sacramento, officials estimate that the lowest level of treatment costs about $500 per person, compared with $1,800 per person for intensive treatment (Hill, Sacramento Bee, 9/19).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.