States Spend More Money to Address Substance Abuse
In 1998, states spent $81.3 billion to address substance abuse and addiction treatment and prevention, accounting for 13.1% of total state spending ($620 billion), according to the first-ever report that analyzes the impact of substance abuse on state budgets. The three-year study from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University shows that of each dollar states spent on substance abuse, 96 cents went to "shovel up the wreckage of substance abuse and addiction," while the remaining four cents went to prevention and treatment. The report defines "shoveling the wreckage" as costs for criminal justice, education, health care, child and family assistance, mental health and public safety (CASA release, 1/29). The report did not consider federal or local money (Ho, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/30). As for ranking states, New York is No. 1 in percentage (18%) of total budget allocated for substance abuse costs, excluding costs for treatment and prevention efforts, while South Carolina had the lowest percentage (less than 7%)(USA Today, 1/30). California ranked third, spending 16% of its budget on substance abuse costs, but spent the most money -- $10.9 billion (AP/Sacramento Bee, 11/30). The District of Columbia spent the most per person on substance abuse ($812), while North Dakota spent the least per person ($155). States also spend 113 times more to deal with the impact of substance abuse on children than they do to prevent or treat it, USA Today reports.
Joseph Califano, CASA president and former secretary of health, education and welfare under President Carter, said, "This is truly insane public policy. States that want to reduce crime, slow the rise in Medicaid spending (and) move mothers and children from welfare to work ... must shift from shoveling up the wreckage to preventing children and teens from abusing drugs" (Parker, USA Today, 1/30). White House Office of National Drug Control Policy acting director Edward Jurith added, "We cannot simply arrest our way out of the problem" (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/30). However, some "critics" questioned the study's methods, in which researchers based totals on a "number of assumptions." Eric Wish, director of the Center for Substance Abuse Research at the University of Maryland, said, "Estimating the cost of drug use is so complicated and requires so many difficult assumptions that it's almost useless." But he added that "it doesn't matter what the final cost is, because what we do know is that money spent on treatment and prevention, will, in the long run, save money and lives." The Baltimore Sun reports that many studies have shown that for every dollar spent on substance abuse treatment, $5 to $7 is saved in medical, criminal justice and related costs (Richissin, Baltimore Sun, 1/30). To view the report, "Shoveling Up: The Impact of Substance Abuse on State Budgets," go to http://www.innovativeminds.com/casa/index.php.