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California Drug Rehab Treatment Funding Under Review

A recent LA Times Editorial criticized Governor Schwarzenegger for reducing and diverting drug rehab treatment funds from California’s Proposition 36 into a different fund that would provide the money to the counties who use it the most, but with restrictions.

Proposition 36 was overwhelmingly passed in a statewide vote in 2000 to approve funding for nonviolent drug offenders to be given drug rehab and addiction treatment instead of jail. Under the measure, offenders were given up to 3 chances to successfully complete a treatment program.

The Governor’s desire for change was sparked by the release of study information from UCLA saying that approximately half of the people sentenced to drug treatment programs from Prop 36 never completed and about one quarter never even showed up.

On the upside, the study showed that the initiative still saved the state $2.50 for every $1 spent diverting non-violent drug offenders into treatment instead of jail or prison.

The Governor wants there to be some additional ramifications for those who fail to comply with their sentence, including some jail time, and possibly look at individual cases instead of a blanket sentencing agreement and financial obligation.

Perhaps one major flaw in the system is being overlooked. Failure isn’t in the intent of the law or even necessarily in the way it has been carried out over the last six years, but rather in the drug rehab treatment practices themselves. Programs that produce successful results should be funded, rather than those that are just part of the traditional system or are state-money savvy. Programs must also be held accountable along with the individuals attending them, and follow-up monitoring is essential.

What are your views on other states adopting similar drug rehab programs to California’s Proposition 36? And what do you think would make it more successful? Despite the less than rave reviews, should more nonviolent drug offenders be given the chance to complete a successful drug treatment program before being sentenced to jail or prison?

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