Pubdate: Fri, 30 May 2003
Source: Lexington Herald-Leader (KY)
Copyright: 2003 Lexington Herald-Leader
Author: Javacia N. Harris /Associated Press
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Treatment)
Bookmark: (Walters, John)


LOUISVILLE - John P. Walters, director of National Drug Control Policy, 
came to Kentucky yesterday to discuss a new plan to expand and improve the 
nation's substance abuse treatment programs.

Walters gave details of President Bush's "Access to Recovery" treatment 
initiative to create a voucher program to provide people with drug or 
alcohol dependencies better treatment options and treatment centers with 
more resources.

Walters, who spoke at Louisville's Volunteers of America center, said he 
came to Kentucky to discuss this national effort because of the drug 
problems facing this region.

"I know from the national data that we have that this area of the country 
has particularly and disproportionately been affected by substance abuse," 
Walters said.

Parts of Eastern Kentucky ranked the highest nationally per capita in 
distribution of narcotics from 1998 through 2001, according to an analysis 
of federal data by the Herald-Leader. Those narcotics begin as legal 
medicines, but many are diverted into illegal sales and abuse, according to 
the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

A special state commission says Kentucky ranks 44th in the nation in 
spending for mental-health and substance-abuse treatment.

"I know that the disproportionate effect here has caused a strain, but it 
has also obviously caused the creation of some remarkable institutions. We 
are aware that these institutions are under strain," Walters said, adding 
that this strain is what led the federal government to create the program.

With the Access to Recovery program, people suffering from substance abuse 
will be given vouchers that will allow them to receive the treatment they 
need at a center participating in the program. States will be able to 
receive grant money and get their centers involved by submitting proposals.

The $600 million for the program would be used to reimburse participating 
centers for treating patients with vouchers.

To ensure that only effective treatment centers are a part of the program, 
Walters said the centers would be evaluated and those not adequately 
helping patients would not be reimbursed.

Walters said Congress knows that most of America's treatment programs are 
successful and that the challenge is to make the programs available to more 
people. "We need to save more lives as soon as possible," he said.

U.S. Rep. Anne Northup, R-Ky., joined Walters in support of the program 

Money for the initiative would also be used to create more centers in areas 
lacking adequate treatment options such as rural communities.

Waiting lists are long at the treatment centers that serve Eastern Kentucky.

More prevention programs, especially in schools, would also be funded 
through the program. Walters said that 23 percent of the people in the 
country dependent on illegal drugs are teen-agers.

About 55 percent of Kentucky high school seniors surveyed in 2001 reported 
using marijuana at least once during their lifetimes.

Walters said the Access to Recovery program will help Bush's plan to 
increase substance abuse treatment funding by $1.6 billion over the next 
five years.

Press Secretary Jennifer de Vallance said if the plan is approved by the 
federal appropriations committee this fall, the program could begin in 
early 2004.
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager