S.F. Public Health Dept. Will Oversee City’s Prop. 36 Enforcement
The San Francisco Health Commission yesterday unanimously approved a resolution placing the Department of Public Health in charge of enforcing Proposition 36-mandated substance abuse and treatment policies in the city, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Proposition 36, which was "overwhelmingly" approved by Californians in November, mandates that non-violent first- and second-time drug offenders receive treatment instead of jail time. According to estimates from the district attorney and sheriff's offices, between 1,200 and 2,500 San Franciscans arrested annually would be sent to treatment programs instead of jail under the proposition. The state Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, which is in charge of distributing the $120 million per year that Proposition 36 provides, has allocated $4.6 million for the city. Barbara Garcia, deputy director of the Department of Health, said the board will likely vote on the recommendation in February. Proposition 36 is scheduled to go into effect July 1. Garcia said that she would "lead a steering committee" with District Attorney Terence Hallinan to work closely with judges, probation officials and treatment providers to determine how the $4.6 million should be spent (Hartlaub, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/17).
Counties currently working out Proposition 36 allocations need to spend their money "wisely" if they wish to have "some chance of success" implementing the program, a Los Angeles Times editorial argues. Several issues need to be reconciled before plans for Proposition 36 funding can be established, the editorial states. One "key disagreement" focuses on whether county probation officers should receive funds to monitor users in treatment. While drug treatment providers say they are "fully capable" of monitoring relapse rates, they have an "inherent conflict of interest," the editorial states, because each relapse or treatment failure "will lower their program's success rate and its chance of getting future Proposition 36 business." Probation officers, however, "are more neutral observers and better able than drug counselors to report relapses to prosecutors and judges," the editorial notes. While some have suggested that probation officers working on Proposition 36 should have no more than 50 clients each, this recommendation would cost more than half of the measure's annual $120 million allocation and "deprive drug treatment programs of their rightful lion's share" of funding, the editorial states. The editorial notes that the "most pragmatic solution for cash-strapped counties" would be to differentiate "hard-core addicts" in need of intensive drug treatment and "people caught experimenting with drugs." The editorial points to San Diego County's program as a good example of a "super drug court that would offer 'a continuum of treatment,'" ranging from minimal supervision to increased monitoring as the number of violations increases (Los Angeles Times, 1/15).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.