We relayed recently that Santa Cruz officials indicated that its Proposition 36 drug treatment program would be phased out by March in light of insufficient state funding. But the county is not alone in grappling with how to provide treatment when funding is not likely to materialize. Voters approved the initiative in 2000 so that first- and second-time minor offenders could receive treatment instead of jail time. Supporters of the proposition argue that the mandate is not optional and counties must find ways to make treatment available in order to comply with the requirements established by the initiative. Governor Brown’s budget proposal does not account for any funds for the program for 2011-2012 and funding in general has dwindled over the past few years in comparison to the $120 million per year that was originally allocated. The Contra Costa Times reports:
“A $45 million infusion of federal economic stimulus funds in 2009 is now all but gone, and the coffers are empty. So, it's a mandate with no money, but a mandate nonetheless: Someone who's eligible and demands treatment can't just be sent to jail. ‘Long before we had financial support, long before there were funds to subsidize persons involved in the criminal justice system in our treatment services, we were seeing people ordered into treatment by the courts. We have just reverted back to those days,’ said Haven Fearn, director of the Contra Costa County Health Services Department's Alcohol and Other Drug Services Division. ‘We still offer treatment services to those individuals ‘... but if the treatment slots are unavailable at the time the court orders it, many of them will have to go onto a waiting list.’”
For counties across the state, such waiting lists could grow quite long, thereby making management of individuals who need treatment difficult. Realignment of services under Brown’s proposal is another component to these programs to be considered, but it appears that counties are in a tight spot for the time being and could face lawsuits for not complying with the initiative due to funding woes. For more on prop 36, see here.