Friday, April 25, 2014

Cuts to substance abuse treatment coincide with cuts to substance use prevention

Earlier this week, a Seattle Times opinion piece describes how  “ . . .Washington’s nationally lauded chemical-dependency treatment community is in critical condition, and it is fading fast.”

“Just this month, a 41-year-old inpatient treatment center in Madrona and a detoxification facility in Everett are closing. Other facilities are teetering on the brink, downsizing, merging or shedding jobs to stay above water. Recovery Centers of King County is losing $20,000 a month on outpatient care.”

“It’s gotten so bad, so quickly, that state regulators are scrambling to ensure some smaller rural counties don’t lose their sole treatment facility. I’ve heard it described as the state’s most serious crisis in chemical-dependency treatment in a generation.”

Toward the end of the article, a treatment provider points out that many of the patients in her detox center (which is closing) are young.  “When she looks around the facility, 'It looks like high school.' Prescription painkillers and heroin are surging, and hook the young. 'They look like babies.'"  Even prior to current cuts in treatment funding, the majority of Medicaid-eligible adolescents who needed substance abuse treatment were not able get the help they needed. 

This is a particularly bad time to lose treatment providers because painkillers and heroin are not the only drugs for which adolescents and young adults seek help.  In fact, marijuana is the primary drug for which adolescents seek treatment and it is about to become much more available throughout the state.   Teen marijuana use rates are expected to increase.   

During the marijuana legalization debate, proponents of I-502 promised increased funding for substance abuse prevention and treatment.  Not only has promised funding not yet materialized, but funding has been cut for both.  In addition to treatment funding cuts, the statewide Community Mobilization Program, a science-based prevention program, was eliminated from the state budget in 2013.  Efforts to get funding back into the state budget failed.  In his opinion piece, Jonathan Martin writes about the state legislature and treatment funding: “Unbelievably, I hardly heard a peep about this in the three-month legislative session, let alone a proposed fix.”  The same can be said about prevention.  Not a peep. 

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