State Must Include $120 Million in Fiscal Year 2003-2004 Budget for Drug Treatment, Legislative Counsel Says
In an opinion released Wednesday, the Legislative Counsel said the state must provide $120 million in the fiscal year 2003-2004 budget to treat drug offenders under Proposition 36, the Los Angeles Times reports (Pasco, Los Angeles Times, 5/1). Under Proposition 36, a ballot measure voters approved in November 2000, some nonviolent drug offenders are offered treatment rather than prison. The measure guaranteed the program $120 million in annual state funding through 2006, but under Gov. Gray Davis' (D) FY 2003-2004 budget plan, the program would be included with the $8.2 billion in state mental health, substance abuse, long-term care and youth programs that Davis has proposed to transfer to counties' control (California Healthline, 4/8). The five-page opinion stated that the annual allotment cannot be changed by Davis or the Legislature without a statewide vote.
According to an Orange County Grand Jury report also released Wednesday, the county should spend more money on treating drug offenders; however, county officials are struggling to fund existing programs amid the state's current budget deficit, the Times reports. About 97% of funds for Orange County drug treatment programs come from the state, with the remainder paid for by the federal government. Although crime rates have risen since Proposition 36 was enacted, the grand jury focused on the effectiveness of county drug treatment programs that divert offenders from jail. Drug treatment advocates said the economy is the reason for the crime increase, but some police departments attribute the increase to the option of drug treatment for first and second offenses in place of jail under Proposition 36. However, the report said there is no "hard evidence" that the Proposition 36 diversion programs resulted in more crime and recommended testing for drugs and immediate supervision of offenders "to minimize repeated crimes after initial release" (Los Angeles Times, 5/1).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.