Pubdate: Wed, 29 Dec 2004
Source: Messenger-Inquirer (KY)
Copyright: 2004 Messenger-Inquirer
Author: Associated Press


BOWLING GREEN -- Studies have found that Kentucky's publicly funded system 
of drug and alcohol treatment is effective in helping methamphetamine 
abusers put down the powerfully addictive drug.

But advocates say the state should dedicate more money for the programs.

The University of Kentucky's Center on Drug and Alcohol Research studies of 
the past two years found that treatment helps significant numbers of 
addicts stop abusing all drugs, find full-time jobs and stay out of 
trouble. The studies also show that the treatment programs save the state 
money by cutting prosecution costs.

"Hey, this stuff works," said Robert Walker, project director for the 
study. "I couldn't tell you the number of studies that have shown positive 
outcomes and cost savings."

The most recent study, released in October, found that 60 percent of people 
surveyed had stayed off illegal drugs, 64 percent abstained from alcohol; 
full-time employment increased by 45 percent and arrests were cut by 51 

Further, it found the state gained about $100 million by spending about $25 
million on treatment instead of prosecuting and jailing offenders. The UK 
studies examined 1,730 people who agreed to follow-up interviews after 
entering treatment during a 12-month period in 2000 and 2001-2002.

Use of methamphetamine is soaring in the Midwest and South, especially in 
rural areas. It is a highly addictive stimulant that can be snorted, smoked 
or injected.

Felecia Peacock, a recovering addict, remembered the grip meth had on her.

"It's euphoric," she said. "You stay up for hours. There's no eating. 
There's no sleeping."

But now, Peacock, 32, works at the Bowling Green halfway house where she 
stayed after completing a 28-day treatment program at a center in 
Louisville. She said she no longer wakes up needing meth to start the day.

"I don't think about getting high," she said. "I don't have a daily desire 
to use."

Advocates of the treatment programs say Kentucky needs to spend at least 
$50 million more on mental-health and substance-abuse treatment. Walker 
said Kentucky spends about $25 million a year -- mostly federal money -- on 
programs to treat drug and alcohol abuse. The state ranks 44th in the 
nation in that spending category.

Martin Wesley, executive director of Park Place, a community mental-health 
treatment center in Bowling Green, said meth users respond well to treatment.

"They're sick of it," he said of the problems meth brings to users. But the 
drug "is spreading like wildfire" and more slots are needed for treatment, 
he said.

"We're just maxed out," Wesley said.

Wesley and others said the state should take advantage of a Medicaid 
provision that would allow Kentucky to provide more treatment through 70 
percent in federal matching funds for the 30 percent in state money.

"We obviously continue to advocate for additional money for substance-abuse 
treatment," said Dan Howard, executive director of the Association of 
Regional Mental Health Boards. "It makes more sense to treat substance 
abusers than to lock them up in jails."

The UK study found people in residential treatment were more likely to stay 
clean. For example, people who reported using illegal drugs when they 
entered residential treatment reported a 56 percent drop in illegal drug 
use afterward. People who got outpatient treatment reported an 18 percent 
reduction in illegal drug use after treatment.

Of the 26,300 people treated for substance abuse through the state's 
regional mental-health system, about 30 percent received residential 
treatment, according to the UK study.

Walker said residential treatment offers a more intense, structured program 
supervised by professionals with medical training. But such programs are 
far more costly, about $150 a day per person.
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