Pubdate: Tue, 22 Jun 2004
Source: North County Times (CA)
Copyright: 2004 North County Times
Author: Rachel Hartgen, For the North County Times
Bookmark: (Substance Abuse and Crime 
Prevention Act)


ESCONDIDO - A lack of funding could cause the nonprofit North County
Serenity House, an alcohol and drug rehabilitation program, to
increase waiting lists and stretch resources to maintain services,
program administrators said.

Serenity House is one of 35 programs contracted by San Diego County to
provide state-funded services mandated by Proposition 36, a 2000
ballot measure that calls for treatment rather than jail for
first-time drug offenders.

But proposed state budget cuts for the fiscal year beginning July 1
could force the nonprofit to trim $300,000 from its roughly $900,000
county contract, said Francine Anzalone-Byrd, Serenity's executive

"It puts us at risk in providing the same level of services,"
Anzalone-Byrd said.

Beginning in the 2004-05 fiscal year, Proposition 36 state funding
could be cut by 15 percent to seven residential programs in the county
and by 20 percent at nonresidential programs.

The cuts, recommended by the county's Prop. 36 Policy Committee, will
be reviewed by the county Board of Supervisors when it considers its
2004-05 fiscal year budget on June 28, said Paula Landau-Cox, a
committee member. The state dollars are folded into the county budget,
since the funds are sent from Sacramento to the county for

Statewide, Prop. 36 allocated $120 million to counties over five years
to operate the programs, and $60 million for start-up costs. San Diego
County's annual share has been $8.9 million to fund the 35
nonresidential and residential rehabilitation programs.

The funds are also used for probation, treatment supervision and other
county costs, said Susan Bower, San Diego's Health and Human Services'
assistant alcohol and drug program administrator.

In addition to the $8.9 million yearly, the county received $4.5
million in start-up costs in 2001, but used only $500,000. The rest
was held in reserve for future operating costs.

The reserve funds will soon be gone and the waiting list for
Serenity's programs are expected to get longer, and longer waiting
lists could hurt all those seeking treatment, officials said. While
some of Serenity's clients are ordered there by the courts, others
seek help on their own.

If court ordered, drug offenders who can't be immediately brought into
a residential program must keep in daily contact and attend support
groups, Anzalone-Byrd said.

In anticipation of the funding cuts, Serenity counselors have
increased daily caseloads from a normal 13 to 15 patients to about 20.
That number could double, Anzalone-Byrd said.

"Our counselors are extremely dedicated and passionate, but they're
also tired and needing help," she said.

In Vista, the Alpha Project's Casa Raphael program - the second
largest residential program in the county - expects to receive roughly
$600,000 in Prop. 36 funding in the next fiscal year, about $300,000
less than the current fiscal year.

The project will continue to work at full capacity, without waiting
lists, but will not increase salaries and will leave vacant positions
unfilled, said Tony Phillips, Alpha Project administration director.

Phillips attributed the program's stability to fact that the program
is somewhat self-sustaining as the enrolled men are required to find
employment, paying 30 percent of their room and board.

The Vista project is less reliant on the Prop. 36 funding, he said,
but receives funding from a number of location state, federal and
private sources.

The program's manager, Joel Myers, added, "You have to rely on other
sources because if you don't, you wouldn't be able to survive."

Although Bower, the county program administrator, said no quick
solution exists, the county's treatment programs might have to
consider shorter treatment times or less-intense programs.

Under Prop. 36, each patient is funded for nine months of treatment
but can receive 12 months in certain cases, Bower said. Serenity House
requires clients to stay at least three months but in some cases, they
are able to stay up to a year.

Myers said the Vista program requires its clients to stay nine months
to a year. After nine months, the organization relies on other funding
to cover the patient's remaining treatment. An additional year of
aftercare is also at the expense of the organization.

While the county's Board of Supervisors is slated to vote on its
budget next week and state lawmakers are targeting the end of the
month to approve their budget, Serenity House has already begun
looking elsewhere for funding. The nonprofit has applied for several
large grants and will rely on volunteers and fund-raisers to offset
the budget crunch, Anzalone-Byrd said.

The executive director said she remains optimistic.

"We have a solid partnership with the county, and I've seen the
pendulum swing both ways," Anzalone-Byrd said. "It's in a difficult
place now, but it always swings back because our services are necessary."

The house will host its annual fund-raiser, Razzle-Dazzle Under
Serenity's Bigtop, on Oct. 23 from 6-11 p.m. The event will feature
live circus entertainment, dinner and an auction. Tickets start at
$60. Call (760) 233-4533 for more information. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake