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An Opportunity to Pose Questions and a Solution to Legislators

by James Heller 11. June 2009 12:26
We have an opportunity to speak out about the issue of proposed cuts to alcohol and drug treatment programs and to put a potential solution in front of legislators.   On June 15 at 6:00 PM Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Legislative Budget Conferee Senator Mark Leno will participate in a live Internet discussion on the budget.  If enough citizens submit similar questions about the issues, we might be able to get our questions addressed during the discussion and influence these leaders to attend to the needs of alcohol and drug treatment clients.

Some suggested questions are:

  1. Why do the Governor and some legislators interpret the defeat of Propositions 1A through 1E as a voter rejection of increases in taxes?    The defeat of the several propositions would be more accurately interpreted as a rejection of attempts to redirect monies that the voters have already authorized.   
  2. Why are some legislators willing to cut funding for Prop 36 when doing so will only shift the costs to the criminal justice system?
  3. Over 1.3 million Californian adults and children depend on CalWorks.  What will happen to these parents and children if CalWorks funding is eliminated?
  4. A $ .10 per drink fee would generate almost $1.5 billion in revenue annually.  What is the level of support among legislators for this proposal? The Governor has proposed it in the past and over 80% of the public supports it.

Please take a moment to copy and paste these questions into the form you will find at the following link:   http://senweb03.senate.ca.gov/focus/townhall/default.htm

Proposed Alcohol Fee Is Good For The California Economy

by James Heller 5. June 2009 10:07
A very important piece of legislation is currently being considered by the California State Assembly that places a fee on alcohol drinks.  Tarzana Treatment Centers supports the position paper below by the Marin Institute.  This is a fair and reasonable fee that will help those in need of alcohol and drug treatment and improve the California economy.  Please find your California State Representatives here and contact them expressing your support for AB 1019.

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Marin Institute

ASK YOUR LEGISLATOR TO SUPPORT AB 1019

Alcohol Related Services Act of 2009

HELP SOLVE THE BUDGET CRISES with $1.44 billion In ALCOHOL FEES


The Alcohol Related Services Act (AB 1019) is a bill authored by Assembly Member Jim Beall (D - San Jose). The legislation establishes the Alcohol-Related Services Program (ARS Program) within the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs.

WHY AN ALCOHOL FEE?

  • Published research has shown that alcohol causes more than $38 billion in harm annually.  Of this amount, approximately $8 billion is paid for by the California government (by both state and county agencies).
  • The ARS program is specifically designed to mitigate the enormous social and economic harm caused by alcohol sales in California. The bill would assess a mitigation fee (not a tax) on spirits, wine and beer, equivalent to 10 cents a drink for beer, wine, and all spirits.
  • Because the bill creates a fee program, only a majority vote of both houses is required, with the Governor’s signature. This mitigation fee, or charge for harm, will generate approximately $1.4 billion to pay for alcohol-related services in California.
  • Currently, the alcohol industry bears no economic responsibility for the problems its products cause. California lags in charging for alcohol harm compared to the progress made in tobacco control over the last 40 years. Most of the fees will be paid by the heaviest alcohol producers, which are foreign corporations such as Anheuser-Busch InBev, SAB Miller, and Diageo.

WHAT WILL THE FEE PAY FOR?

The ARS Program consists of five equally funded alcohol-related component services to mitigate the harm of alcohol sales in the following categories.

  1. Treatment and Recovery
  2. Emergency Room and Trauma
  3. Hospitalization and Rehabilitation
  4. Criminal Justice and Enforcement
  5. Prevention, Education, and Research

The Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs will hold public hearings and create guidelines for component services through grants or contracts within four months of the bill’s passage.  New or existing programs will be funded.

For Instance, the ADP might create a $300 million annual program for hospitals to be reimbursed for uncompensated care to indigent people for alcohol-related emergency room admissions.  Many treatment and recovery programs will be fully funded.  Criteria of need, effectiveness and best practices will be used by ADP as guidance in creating service components.

-- Source: http://www.marininstitute.org/site/images/stories/pdfs/ab1019.pdf --

Tarzana Treatment Centers in Los Angeles makes a daily effort to find treatment news articles that we can share with our readers in the alcohol and drug treatment community.  The external content was found among other articles of equal informational and educational quality.

Southern California Locations for Alcohol and Drug Treatment
Tarzana Treatment Centers has locations all over Southern California in Los Angeles County and Orange County. Other than our central location in Tarzana, we have facilities in Lancaster in the Antelope Valley, Long Beach, in Northridge and Reseda in the San Fernando Valley, and in Santa Ana.

An Open Letter to Governor Schwarzenegger and California Legislators

by James Heller 4. June 2009 10:39
Tarzana Treatment Centers urges you to convey your support for the following:

1. Reject the Governor’s May revision proposals to eliminate Proposition 36 (Prop 36) and the Offender Treatment Program (OTP), to cut Drug Medi-Cal by 10%, to cut rehabilitation services in the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), and to cut CalWorks substance abuse services.

The Prop 36 program has saved money for the state in incarceration costs and has decreased crime rates statewide.  If Prop 36 funds become unavailable, alcohol and drug treatment will also be unavailable, leaving diverted offenders without a choice but to return to a life of alcohol, drugs, and crime.

In addition, Prop 36 is a large part of the Maintenance of Effort required to receive federal SAPT block grant funds.  Losing this funding could place an additional burden on the state, as well as the alcohol and drug treatment programs in California.  Prop 36 has proven to be a model for several other states in the nation, so we need to take pride in its success and nurture it.

2. Adopt the Legislative Analyst Recommendation to designate a portion of Byrne-JAG funds for treatment instead of arresting low level drug offenders.  

OTP should be partially funded with Byrne-JAG funds and partially with General Funds.  The Legislative Analyst is recommending $50 million for Prop. 36.  We support this recommendation with an additional $10 million for probation services.  With this, low-level drug possession offenders could stay out of prison and off parole.  This would save the state an estimated $500 million to $1 billion on the incarceration side and $135 million on the parole side.

3.  Adopt Legislative Analyst recommendations regarding CDCR and parole reform.  

CDCR should end the practice of violating parole for technical violations that send parolee drug offenders back to prison instead of into treatment. They should also stop parole violations while parolees are in treatment and assure that parole officers follow the protocols/check list for rescinding parole and instead follow alternative sanctions protocols.  A meaningful portion of the cost savings realized should be allocated to treatment.

4. Expand community post incarceration aftercare programs established under SB 1453, (Speier) Chapter 875, Statutes of 2006.  

This program guarantees community treatment for individuals who participate in in-custody treatment.  Those who complete treatment would have their parole ended. CDCR should utilize the current capacity in the SASCA system to expand this program.  

5. Adopt an increase of $0.10 per drink fee on alcohol beverages.  

The tax/fee on alcohol has not been increased since 1991.  According to the Marin Institute, increasing the alcohol fee by $0.10 a drink for alcoholic beverages (beer, wine and hard liquor) will yield almost $1.47 billion annually.

California voters will favor this fee.  A recent Public Policy Institute poll showed that 86% of likely voters in California support a fee on alcoholic drinks.  Democrats, Republicans, and Independents all agree that this is a good fee because it is reasonable, fair, and will result in cost savings and help boost the economy.  

In addressing the fiscal crisis, the legislature has the opportunity to scale down spending in ways that do not sow the seeds of next year’s budget problem.  Considering the nexus between substance abuse and the law, justice and correctional systems, we believe there are ways to make fiscally responsible reductions in programs while not simultaneously creating additional burdens for systems operating with diminished resources.  

The Governor has proposed cuts to California’s alcohol and drug treatment services that have not been given enough consideration.  As budget items are being scrutinized for merit, please take into account that with a proven track record in cost savings of up to $2 for every $1 spent, alcohol and drug treatment should not only be fully funded, but expansion should also be considered.  

California needs a long term solution. Cuts proposed by the Governor are short term and will result in long term increased costs at a rate of no less than $2.5 for every dollar cut.  

By taking these actions the state can achieve the needed cuts in general fund spending, create new revenues, use new revenues to fully fund these vital services and still have additional new revenues to help fund other needed health care services like HIV/AIDS, trauma centers, etc.

Alcohol and Drug Treatment for The Incarcerated

by James Heller 3. June 2009 12:12
One of the reasons we incarcerate those who commit crimes is to rehabilitate them.  The US justice system is supposed to help these individuals become civil members of society.  Since alcohol or drug use is involved in most crimes that result in incarceration, though, you would think that alcohol and drug treatment would be a key factor in their rehabilitation.  Unfortunately, that’s not the case for most of them.

A couple of scenarios can help explain why alcohol and drug treatment is needed for the incarcerated.  First, there is the alcoholic or drug addict who committed a crime while under the influence.  The second group consists of alcohol and drug abusers who live a life of crime and have been incarcerated several times.

Alcohol dependence and drug addiction can cause the sufferer to do things they normally wouldn’t.  This can be due to blackouts or desperation for a “fix”, among other reasons.  When the crime committed is serious enough to warrant incarceration, it stands to reason that treatment should be provided before they are released.  

These are not career criminals, but people who suffer from a disease that needs to be treated.  Probation for this group is counter-intuitive.  Follow-up outpatient alcohol or drug treatment makes better sense.  The problem is alcohol dependence or drug addiction, and not crime.  So the solution is to fix the primary problems of alcoholism or drug addiction that resulted in the crime.

Many incarcerated individuals know of no other way to survive than to commit crimes due to life circumstances.  They are always in and out of jails and prisons, and tend to use alcohol or drugs to mask inner feelings that motivate their life of crime.  The justice system would make great strides in solving this ongoing problem by providing alcohol and drug treatment during incarceration.

Alcohol and drug treatment gives sufferers a sense of hope that life can be lived not only without alcohol and drugs, but also as productive members of society.  For the incarcerated, the treatment experience can be powerful when they relate life experiences with one another.  The hope generated by treatment during incarceration can help many “career criminals” change the course of their lives.

Time served in a jails and prisons does nothing for anyone if they don’t learn how to change their lives upon release into society.  Even those with the best intentions of “going straight”, not knowing how, are at risk of returning to a life of crime.  So continued outpatient or even residential alcohol and drug treatment during probation can help to prevent a return to damaging lifestyles.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported on the lack of treatment available to incarcerated individuals.  An excerpt is provided below.  Revolving doors at jails and prisons don’t need to exist when we have solutions like alcohol and drug treatment.  And in tough economic times, it’s nice to know that making these changes will save money.

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Effective Treatment Is Not Widely Available

Less than 10 percent of adults and about 20 percent of adolescents with substance abuse problems in the Nation's jails, prisons, and probation programs can receive treatment on a given day, according to the National Criminal Justice Treatment Practices Survey (NCJTPS). Although 65 percent of adult facilities report that they offer substance abuse treatment, the number of people who can participate in these programs is often severely limited.

These findings further reveal the scope of the problem highlighted by previous research indicating that the most frequently provided services for adults and adolescents—substance abuse education and low-intensity group therapy (less than 4 hours a week)—are not likely to help offenders change their behavior. The survey also disclosed that only 40 percent of adult facilities and 29 percent of juvenile facilities reported having full-time personnel to provide drug abuse therapy.

-- Source: http://www.nida.nih.gov/NIDA_notes/NNvol22N3/nidaatwork.html#insert

Tarzana Treatment Centers in Los Angeles makes a daily effort to find treatment news articles that we can share with our readers in the alcohol and drug treatment community.  The external content was found among other articles of equal informational and educational quality.

Southern California Locations for Alcohol and Drug Treatment
Tarzana Treatment Centers has locations all over Southern California in Los Angeles County and Orange County. Other than our central location in Tarzana, we have facilities in Lancaster in the Antelope Valley, Long Beach, in Northridge and Reseda in the San Fernando Valley, and in Santa Ana.

California Must Continue Funding Alcohol and Drug Treatment

by James Heller 1. June 2009 07:47
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed the elimination of Prop 36 funding to help solve the state budget deficit.  He has also asked for cuts in Drug Medi-Cal funding of 10% along with rehabilitation services in the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

When considering California’s budget cuts, the Governor and Legislature must take into account that programs aimed at alcohol and drug treatment actually result in a net savings to the state.  Whether the recipients who benefit are low-income individuals or non-violent drug offenders, statistics show that these programs are a net benefit to our economy and cutting them will only do harm.

Programs That Save

State funded programs for non-violent drug offenders like Prop 36 are more than just budget spending items.  There is a real return on investment.  Helping individuals to get treatment for alcohol dependence and drug addiction has given them a chance to change the course of their lives.  Thus, the cost for incarceration and parole has decreased along with recidivism.  A UCLA study has calculated that for every $1 spent, there is a cost savings of $2 to California taxpayers.

The Drug Medi-Cal Program provides treatment to low-income individuals who receive state health care benefits.  This funding has proven to reduce health care costs to the state and counties, and the benefits to the lives of recipients are incalculable.

Problem Areas

The current practice of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is to send parolee drug offenders back to prison, rather than to treatment.  Some parolees are even violated when they are in treatment, sending them back to prison and risking a reversal of the positive course the parolee had taken.  

Currently, some incarcerated persons voluntarily enter addiction treatment with the hope of bettering their lives.  Unfortunately, since they are still subject to parole upon release from prison, many of them are violated on technicalities and sent back to prison.  These practices simply recycle individuals in the criminal justice system, provide no real solution to crime, and hurt the economy.

Individuals suffering from co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders are eligible for services under Proposition 63, but not currently funded through that program.  This has placed the financial burden on state alcohol and drug programs (AOD), and limits treatment due to mismanagement of funding which is simply wasteful.

Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) has helped to improve the lives of those who cannot seem to break free from drug addiction.  Funding of programs that support MAT has not been updated to include new medications and treatments.  Many low-income persons are therefore unable to receive treatment that will move their lives in a positive direction.

Solutions to Increase Savings

Continuation of funding for Prop 36 will save millions of dollars on incarceration costs, court costs, and will ensure that California continues to receive federal grant funds.  Non-violent drug offenders belong in treatment where they learn to live drug free, giving them the chance to become productive members of society.  California also receives federal Substance Abuse Prevention & Treatment (SAPT) Block Grant funds due in part to the continuation of Prop 36 state funding.

California’s Legislative Analyst has made recommendations regarding parole reform to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation that should be adopted.  The current one-size-fits-all system needs to be changed to accept treatment as a valid alternative to parole, if not only as a positive step for ex-convicts.  This change would lead to real rehabilitation for those seeking it, and some of the cost savings for incarceration can be diverted to alcohol and drug treatment.  

The state would save an estimated $500 million to $1 billion on incarceration and $135 million on parole for low-level drug offenders if the Legislative Analyst’s recommended changes were to be adopted.

Expand community post incarceration aftercare programs established under (SB 1453, Speier) Chapter 875, Statutes of 2006.  This program guarantees community treatment for individuals who participate in in-custody treatment.  Those who complete treatment would have their parole ended.  CDCR should utilize the current capacity in the SASCA system as well to expand this program.  

Adopt budget control language to direct all dual diagnosed co-occurring (substance abuse and mental health) individuals be funded with Proposition 63 funds.  This will place individuals with co-occurring disorders in the proper funding streams and maximize their access to appropriate services.

Enact AB 244 (Beall) that will bring private health insurance into conformance with the newly enacted federal Parity Law, meeting the governor’s goals of health care reform, and relieving the taxpayers of underwriting treatment that should be paid by their health insurance companies.

Enact AB 417 (Beall) that will realize cost savings through using MAT in treatment.  These savings will come from more cost-effective medications and treatment.  The savings can then be reinvested back into the Drug MediCal program for its expansion.

Save Programs that Help the Economy

The goal of the Governor and Legislature in California should be to continue programs that help our economy, and cut wasteful programs.  Short-term cuts to alcohol and drug treatment programs that have proven to help the overall economy in California will cause long-term costs and increase crime.  It appears quite obvious that these programs should be continued, improved, and even expanded in order to help California back to a stable economy.

Public Comments Requested on Implementation of Mental Health Parity

by James Heller 8. May 2009 11:59

Some federal government agencies have requested public comments on the Mental Health Parity and Addition Equity Act.  More information about the act is provided below thanks to the publication Addiction Professional.  Full text of the act can be found at http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h110-1424.

Comments must be submitted by May 30, 2009


The pros and cons of regulations need to be weighed now that this bill has become law.  Citizens suffering with mental health disorders, alcoholism, or drug addiction will benefit through fairer coverage for treatment.  Mental health treatment professionals and those who work in alcohol and drug treatment have seen how the disparity between physical and mental health coverage often postpones or discourages people from getting the treatment they need.

It is important that the positive effect the law will have on treatment coverage does not get lost in the regulations that implement the law.  Therefore, Tarzana Treatment Centers is requesting you send comments that support fair coverage.  

How to send comments:

  1. Go to this web address: http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=SubmitComment&o=090000648096e388
  2. Enter required information (optional if desired)
  3. “Submitter's Representative” = If unknown, do the following:
  4.       Find yours at https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml
  5.       Enter your 5 or 9 digit zip code
  6.       Press “Contact my representative”
  7.       Enter the name of your representative
  8. “Government Agency Type” = Federal
  9. “Government Agency” = DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
  10. Enter comments in favor of parity and fairness in coverage for mental health treatment and alcohol or drug treatment
  11. Click “Next Step”
  12. Click “Submit”


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Federal government seeks public comment on implementation of parity law (4/28/2009)

Press Release

The Mental Health Parity and Addition Equity Act signed into law in October 2008 consolidated longstanding efforts at the national and state level to establish parity between the financial health coverage for mental health/substance abuse conditions, and physical health disorders. The three federal government agencies principally responsible for implementing this law – the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Labor and the Internal Revenue Service -- are issuing a request in the Federal Register seeking information and advice from the public addressing critical issues surrounding the best ways to implement the law and fulfill its objectives.
 
Among the issues that the departments are seeking information on are issues related to the most efficient and cost-effective ways of implementing this law. In addition, this request for information seeks information that would be helpful in the development of regulations needed to implement this law.  
 
The Federal Register announcement can be accessed at:  http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/pdf/E9-9629.pdf

DATES: Comments must be submitted on or before 30 days after the publication of this announcement in the Federal Register.

-- Source: http://www.addictionpro.com/ME2/dirmod.asp?sid=&nm=&type=news&mod=News&mid=9A02E3B96F2A415ABC72CB5F516B4C10&tier=3&nid=B5D85FFFBCAF408689A8A5F584A90444

Tarzana Treatment Centers in Los Angeles makes a daily effort to find treatment news articles that we can share with our readers in the alcohol and drug treatment community.  The external content was found among other articles of equal informational and educational quality.

Equality of Sentencing for Crack Cocaine

by James Heller 29. April 2009 14:05
Tarzana Treatment Centers is dedicated to helping people with alcohol dependence and drug addiction.  This means that alcohol and drug detox and treatment cannot be our only concern.  At the same time, we occasionally advocate for public policy matters that affect alcoholics, drug addicts, and the alcohol and drug treatment community.

On April 29th, at 10:00 am, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs conducted an official hearing entitled “Restoring Fairness to Federal Sentencing: Addressing the Crack-Powder Disparity.”

The bill that was discussed does not just equalize sentencing for offences that involve the two forms of cocaine.  It also includes a treatment sentence option.  The success of programs like California’s Prop 36 that offer treatment instead of incarceration should be enough to persuade elected officials to pass this bill.  Sadly, this issue has a history that has allowed inequality of sentencing to carry on.

In the midst of the crack cocaine epidemic in the 1980s, legislation was pushed through congress that forced tough sentencing guidelines on judges for drug offenses involving crack.  These sentences were placed much higher than those for comparable powder cocaine offenses.  

For over 20 years, the guidelines have been debated and at least 9 bills have been introduced to equalize the laws on powder and crack cocaine.  Unfortunately, these bills have never even made their way out of committee and to the Senate floor for a vote.  This roadblock to equality must be cleared in 2009.

Please link to and print the 2 petitions below for US Senators Boxer and Feinstein from California.  Get as many signatures as you can and send them to the addresses included.  If you reside in a state other than California, get the name of your US Senators here, and do the same for them.


Contact information is below for offices of Democrat (majority) and Republican (minority) members of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs.  Some members of both parties need to be convinced that the bill must not be stalled in committee again.  Call each office and tell them you want equality in sentencing for crack and powder cocaine, and that treatment instead of incarceration works.

Majority Party Office: 202-224-1158

Minority Party Office: 202-224-5972