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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.