Funding for Substance Abuse Treatment Increases
Despite governor’s $10 million veto, millions still going to treatment centers
ANCHORAGE - It's being called a victory, albeit a minor one, in the war against substance abuse: the battle for funding.
Substance abuse treatment centers are getting funding from the taxes we all pay when we buy alcohol. Treatment centers are getting an additional $9 million dollars from the alcohol beverage tax this year, which advocates say will help save millions of lives.
It's the nightmare of addiction many Alaskans face, wanting help but finding out there's nowhere you can go. “That was very scary for me. I looked for all kinds of different ways to get help,” said Holly, who is a recovering addict. “Really, you're not going to do it unless you're ready, nobody can force you.”
“I know many programs that have anywhere from 15 to 40 people on their waitlist,” said Anna Sappah, who is the executive director of the Alaska Addiction Professionals Association. “We had a fellow that finally got into services after 14 months on a wait list, and in my mind that's simply unacceptable.”
Fifty percent of taxes collected on alcohol sales is used for substance abuse treatment and prevention, but advocates say more of the alcohol tax should be included.
State lawmakers agreed approving $19 million dollars more to go toward places like Clitheroe Center. Governor Parnell partially vetoed that, and approved only $9 of the $19 million dollars.
Staff members at Clitheroe Center say they welcome the extra cash. They've had to close their doors in the past because of the shortfall.
“We need all the money we can get to help with the recovery programs for our fellow Alaskans,” said Captain Bob Cornett, who is the Anchorage area coordinator for the Salvation Army, which runs Clitheroe. “The money helps us fill our detox beds, helps us get the nursing staff that we need, helps us keeps the doors open.”
Clitheroe is not alone. State officials say other centers throughout the state are facing the same situation.
“There's no doubt that there's unmet need,” said Melissa Stone, who is the director of the Alaska Division of Behavioral Health. “We know there is unmet need by virtue of the wait lists that agencies have; we know that there's unmet need because people cycle back through the system.”
The hope is that the new money will help keep both the programs and people alive, because the ultimate goal is to make sure anyone who needs help can get it at any time.
“If you don't have the funds to keep the lights on, to keep the power running, and keep the doors open, then there's a lot of people who are going to die from addiction,” said Cornett.
Right now, pregnant women get priority when it comes to treatment, but advocates say the extra money will be used for programs that help men and the mentally ill. The state needs to figure out how to distribute the $9 million over the next three years.