Pubdate: Sat, 19 Jul 2008
Source: Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Copyright: 2008 The Daily Herald Company
Author: Melody M. Heaps


The problems at the Cook County jail will only get  worse when the
state's drastic budget cuts to substance  abuse treatment take effect
("Feds blast conditions at  Cook County jail," July 18).

The Illinois House voted on July 16 to override Gov. Rod
Blagojevich's veto of $43 million for state alcohol  and drug abuse
prevention and treatment programs. The Illinois Senate must follow

If the budget cuts stand, substance abuse treatment in Illinois will
be slashed by nearly 50 percent.

Half of those in state-funded treatment in Illinois are referred to
treatment by the justice system. This is no wonder since at least
half of felony offenders have a  substance abuse problem requiring

Treatment is effective in reducing addiction-driven crime. A national
study showed that a year following  treatment, arrests declined 64
percent among former users.

In Cook County, the costs and consequences of the budget cuts to our
criminal justice system will occur immediately.

Justice will stall as waiting times swell for clinical assessments,
court processing, and drug treatment access.

One example: Judges mandate thousands of nonviolent, addicted
offenders to supervised substance abuse treatment. When
community-based treatment is not  available, the alternatives are to
send addicted  offenders back to the community or send them to jail or
 prison -- at nearly five times the cost to taxpayers.

As your article shows, incarceration hardly amounts to 

The Senate can sit idle as 42,000 people in Illinois are kicked out
of care, as current waiting lists of  7,500 are doubled, as the wheels
of justice are slowed, and as public safety decreases.

Or the Senate can restore the state's budget for treatment and avert
the costly consequences to  families, communities, and taxpayers.

The Senate must act. We implore Senate President Emil Jones and the
Senate leadership to call a special  session so that a vote can be
held on the veto overrides passed by the House.

Melody M. Heaps


Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities, Inc.

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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin