HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Bill Calls for Big Bucks for Addiction Treatment
Pubdate: Tue, 13 Feb 2001
Source: Reuters
Copyright: 2001 Reuters Limited
Author: Todd Zwillich

BILL CALLS FOR BIG BUCKS FOR ADDICTION TREATMENT

WASHINGTON (Reuters Health) - A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced
legislation on Tuesday that is designed to expand the role of treatment
and prevention in the federal government's antidrug effort.

The bill calls for $2.7 billion in spending over the next three years to
increase the scope of drug treatment programs in prisons and jails and
to expand drug testing throughout the criminal justice system. Included
in the new spending is $300 million targeted toward residential drug
treatment programs for juveniles and $76 million in expanded funding for
substance abuse research at the National Institutes of Health.

The proposal, named the Drug Abuse Education, Prevention, and Treatment
Act, also calls for stricter sentencing guidelines for criminals who
commit drug offenses in the presence of a minor or use children to help
traffic drugs.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the bill's chief sponsor, called the
legislation "the product of an emerging bipartisan consensus" that drug
treatment and prevention are vital to combating illegal drugs.

"Our law enforcement efforts to reduce the supply of illegal drugs must
be complemented by a substantial commitment to reduce our demand for
these substances," said Sen. Hatch, who chairs the Senate Judiciary
Committee.

Sen Joseph Biden (D-Del.), a member of the Judiciary Committee who has
long been a critic of efforts to use stricter law enforcement and longer
incarceration to combat drug addiction, praised the bill as "a
coalescence of left, right, and center" on the drug issue.

Congress' reluctance to integrate prevention and treatment programs into
the drug war have amounted to "learning how to walk and chew gum at the
same time," Sen. Biden said. While increased law enforcement efforts
have helped, "the part we've neglected is the treatment side of this
equation," he added.

As many as 15 million Americans are classified in federal surveys as
abusers of illicit drugs, with another 4 million called "hard core"
addicts.

The bill garnered endorsements from a number of drug treatment advocacy
organizations, including The National Center on Addiction and Substance
Abuse at Columbia University. Joseph Califano, who heads that
organization, called the bill "a major change in the way the national
government and the country is looking at substance abuse and addiction."

Under the bill the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
Administration would receive $100 million next year to expand its
community and school based drug education programs for children.

Most indicators of adolescent drug use--with the exception of sharp
rises in ecstasy and steroid use among teens--have either leveled off or
dropped over the last 3 years, according to recent survey statistics
from the Department of Health and Human Services.

But Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said
that heroin use in his state has doubled over the last 3 years. The bill
establishes drug treatment grants and guarantees a minimum level of
funding for rural states, where access to drug treatment programs is
often spotty.

"There has to be some kind of national help" for sparsely populated
states, Sen. Leahy said.
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