Pubdate: Thu, 16 Feb 2006
Source: Register, The (MA)
Copyright: 2006, Community Newspaper Co.
Bookmark: (Treatment)


A recent study by the Institute on Urban Health Research at
Northeastern University reported that Massachusetts has the highest
rate of illicit drug use in the country and exceeds national average
rates of alcohol use. A bill currently  working its way through the
Legislature would require hospitals and physicians  to notify parents
when their child is treated for a drug overdose. Supporters of  the
bill say it is aimed at helping drug-addicted kids get treatment.

But while demand  for treatment is on the rise, Massachusetts has seen
an alarming trend toward  cutting funding for substance abuse
programs. State funding was cut by 24  percent between 2001 and 2004.
While other  programs were cut 5 to 10 percent, substance
abuse-related service cuts resulted  in a 50 percent loss of the
state's treatment center detoxification beds.

The Northeastern  report estimated 40,000 Massachusetts residents are
in need of, but don't  receive, services to treat substance abuse and
recommends that $110 million  would be needed to close the gap.

The vast majority  of the inmates serving time in the Barnstable
County Correctional Facility have  substance abuse problems. Often
drugs or alcohol are the direct cause of them  being in prison.

A bill approved 6  to 1 by the Mental Health and Substance Abuse
Committee would change the penalty  for possessing less than an ounce
of marijuana to a $250 civil fine for anyone  18 years old and
younger. Currently, someone convicted of such an offense can be  sent
to jail for up to six months for the crime and pay a $500 fine for a
first  offense. While this proposed change may lower the prison
population, it is  unclear how it will decrease adolescent drug use.
Among the Cape's  homeless, alcohol and drug abuse is a too-common
fact of life. These are just  the most visible people in need of
treatment. The sad fact is that substance  abuse affects every
profession, every social and ethnic group in every Cape Cod  town, and
that has been the case for many years. Detoxification  programs,
assistance for homeless addicts and bilingual services are all part of
  what advocates say need more funds, not less. At a time when  the
state budget is up for debate, legislators need to hear from the
voters  about programs they believe are important. If you have a
concern about treatment  for people in dire need of help, the time is
now to talk to your legislator and  push him or her to support funds
for programs that help many of our neighbors  find a path back to a
life free of addiction.
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