Thursday, July 17, 2014

Federal budget cuts hurt local substance abuse prevention and treatment programs

In a time when Washington wants to treat substance use more as a public health issue than a justice system issue, public health funding is not keeping up with changing laws.  Not only has our state reduced funding for substance abuse prevention and treatment programs, the federal government has, too.  According to a report by the Coalition for Health Funding, overall federal funding for public health programs has been drastically cut over the past four years and federal agencies that deal with substance abuse prevention and treatment have been affected the most.

The National Institute of Health (NIH), which includes the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and comprises about half the federal government’s spending on public health, has experienced a 10 percent budget cut over the past year.  
Funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been slashed by 16 percent and funding for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which includes the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) and the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), has been cut about 8 percent.

In our state, most substance abuse prevention programming is implemented through coalitions.  The state’s Community Prevention and Wellness Initiative coalitions are funded with Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment block grant monies from SAMHSA.  Drug Free Communities coalitions are also funded through SAMHSA.  Federal cuts to the SAMHSA budget reduce our state’s primary source of prevention funding.   

If Washington is serious about treating substance abuse as a public health issue, and it's not just political rhetoric, both federal and state policy makers need to increase prevention and treatment funds, not reduce or eliminate them.  

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