Ahead of Monday Budget Release, Advocates Urge Gov. to Increase Drug Treatment Funding

Press Release May 9, 2007
Media Contact

Margaret Dooley at (858) 336-3685 or Dave Fratello at (310) 394-2952

SACRAMENTO, May 10 — On Monday (May 14), Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will release his revised budget proposal for Proposition 36, California’s voter-enacted, treatment-instead-of-incarceration program. Advocates are calling on the governor to heed the advice of a recent state-funded report by increasing funding for the program to $228.6 million.

Margaret Dooley, Prop. 36 coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance, said, “Even before UCLA recommended $230 million as the minimum annual funding level, there was consensus among doctors, treatment providers and advocates, and county governments that Prop. 36 needs more funding, not less. Only a substantial funding increase can provide adequate treatment and continue to expand this program’s documented cost savings. We hope the governor’s May revise will reflect this broad consensus.”

The Governor’s January budget proposed slashing Prop. 36 funding from $145 million to $120 million, while diverting half of those funds into an “Offender Treatment Program” (OTP) requiring a 1-9 county match. At legislative budget hearings, treatment providers and local governments have vocally expressed their displeasure. The Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) noted in February that a reduction in Prop. 36 funding would increase prison costs. The LAO also pointed to some prospective legal concerns regarding the shifting of funds from the Prop. 36 trust fund into OTP.

Several major California newspapers also have criticized the Governor’s plan. The Los Angeles Times editorial page said: “The UCLA study flagged [shortcomings] in Proposition 36, most of which point to a need for longer, more intensive treatment. That means more funding, not less.” The Orange County Register and San Diego’s North County Times also weighed in against the governor’s plan and in support of cost-effective, community-based treatment.

Dave Fratello, co-author of Prop. 36, said, “The state budget may be tight, but California can’t afford to reduce its commitment to Prop. 36. UCLA has shown again and again that Prop. 36 generates huge cost savings, improves thousands of lives each year and has significantly reduces the burden on our prisons. We can show now with data that drug addiction is most expensive when it is not treated.”

Nearly six years into Prop. 36, the number of people incarcerated for drug possession has fallen by 32 percent (5,000 people). By diverting so many into treatment, Prop. 36 rendered unnecessary the construction of a new men’s prison (saving an addition $500 million) and also resulted in the shuttering of a women’s prison, bringing total savings to $1.7 billion.

UCLA Finds Big Savings, Recommends Big Funding Increase

Prior UCLA analyses of Prop. 36, required under law, established that every $1 invested results in $2.50 of savings to state and local government coffers, with most of those savings accrued by the state. UCLA researchers used a stringent, rigorous “taxpayers’ perspective” model only considered these direct savings.

UCLA’s most recent analysis, released last month, found that the program requires at least $228.6 million to provide minimal, adequate treatment and to help generate even greater cost savings. The researchers found that average stays in treatment are shorter in Prop. 36 than in similar systems because the program is under-funded. Also, many people receive incorrect, less expensive treatment placements and have little probation supervision during their stays.

UCLA researchers arrived at their recommended funding level by analyzing the costs of a series of improvements, including:

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