State Officials Worry Prop. 36 is ‘Doomed’ to Fail
Police officers, judges, prosecutors, probation officers and drug treatment officials are concerned that Proposition 36, which mandates drug treatment for first- and second-time offenders not charged with other crimes, is in "danger of failing" when it becomes effective on July 1, the New York Times reports. Last November, California voters "overwhelmingly" approved the measure, which estimated that 36,000 addicts would be eligible for treatment and provided $120 million per year for treatment around the state. But Maria Luna, chair of the Los Angeles County task force that will administer Proposition 36, said that in Los Angeles alone, 24,000 individuals will be eligible for treatment, at a cost of $96 million. Authorities also have expressed concern that the initiative was "hastily written" and anticipate a "cascading number of unintended consequences." In addition, authorities question "who will make sure the addicts go from the courtrooms to the new treatment centers, and how will they be tested to make sure they are drug free." The law does not provide money for drug testing, which costs about $8 per test. In Los Angeles alone, drug testing is expected to cost $10 million per year. Lael Rubin, special assistant to the Los Angeles County district attorney and a task force member, added, "Frankly, I think this could work, if it were better funded. ... We're afraid if this fails, people will want to go back to the lock-them-up days." Rubin and other Los Angeles officials have been lobbying the Legislature for additional funds to carry out Proposition 36 (Butterfield, New York Times, 2/12).
Meanwhile, the Madera County Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 to "seek as much funding as it can get from the state" to comply with Proposition 36, the Fresno Bee reports. Supervisors "air[ed]" their suspicion that the program would "pile another burden on Madera County taxpayers." The county has until March 1 to apply for $227,302 in state funding, which would help the county organize and ready the program by July 1. County Alcohol and Drug Administrator Janice Melton estimated that the state would double the setup money to help the county cover the first year of the program's operation. The county handles about 400 drug cases per year (McCarthy, Fresno Bee, 2/13).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.