Aid Money Targets Certain Demographic Groups 

Aid Money Targets Certain Demographic Groups 
Posted by FoM on January 21, 2000 at 21:01:35 PT
By Maureen West, The Arizona Republic 
Source: Arizona Central
Drug addicts in Arizona have little chance of getting treatment. Those who are wealthy or in jail can find programs, but the majority have nowhere to turn. A thousand people are on lists for a handful of programs. There would be more, but the state stops taking names after 1,000. Those who get a place usually wait 60 to 80 days to begin. Most addicts can't wait two days, experts say. They lose their resolve; they don't come back. 
Those individual failures translate into a monumental failure for society: A thousand people who don't get off drugs are 1,000 people who break the law, who fill emergency rooms, who disrupt families, who waste lives. None of it makes sense, said Lupe Quintero, director of Corazon, the only bilingual residential drug treatment center for men in Phoenix. Facts About Drug Use: An estimated 6 million children in the United States live with parents who reported using illicit drugs in the past month (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1994). The portion of Arizonans ages 12 to 17 who in 1998 said they have used illicit drugs was nearly 24 percent, far above the national average of 16.4 percent, according to a survey last year by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 9.9 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds nationally reported using some sort of drugs within the past month. 11.5 percent of Arizona teens reported that they were current marijuana users, compared with 7.8.3 percent in the rest of the country. Although overall teen drug use has dropped in Arizona since 1997, the number of current cocaine users ages 12 to 17 increased to 2.3 percent from 1.9 percent. There are only 12 publicly supported drug rehab beds in Arizona for kids who need to get out of their home environment to get clean or who already live on the streets. Drug abuse is one of the most common factors leading to a child's entry into the welfare system. In 1994, caseworkers nationwide reported that they knew of parental substance abuse in at least one-third of families they were serving. "Millions of dollars are going to sophisticated technology to fight the drug peddler, and forgotten are people needing help," Quintero said. "Get rid of the demand for drugs by increasing prevention and making treatment easier to get." America's federal drug-fighting budget is nearly $18 billion this year. One-third of that goes to treatment, education and prevention, but the treatment dollars are hard to find in Arizona. Abuse Growing:In 1998, the latest year for which figures are available, Arizona spent $44 million on drug treatment. The federal government kicked in $15 million of it. Arizona's contribution has remained about the same for the past 10 years, despite a doubling of the state's population. Spending hasn't kept pace with the state's growing problem, said Steve Carter, whose family for decades has run the Maverick House, a treatment and halfway facility in Glendale. An estimated 36,000 Arizona adults abuse or are dependent on illicit drugs, according to a 1996 telephone survey by the state Department of Health Services. The survey undercounted addicts because it did not include the homeless or others without phones, said Christy Dye, director of the Bureau of Substance Abuse for the DHS. The population of drug users has grown in the past five years, primarily because Arizona has become one of the biggest producers of methamphetamine, Dye said. "Three years ago, counselors started treating more meth users than crack users," she said. Heroin abuse also is high in the state. "We see 10- and 12-year-old kids come into the hospital who are already addicted," said Don Aldridge, director of business development for Charter Behavioral Health Systems/Glendale. Not surprisingly, the number of drug-related deaths is climbing. In 1998, the latest year for which figures are available, more than 500 Arizonans died as a result of drug use. That was up 42 percent from five years earlier. Value Options:Sally Lara doesn't believe that things have ever been this bad. "For the first time, we are turning people away," said the executive director of the Phoenix branch of the National Council of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, which provides counseling. "We get over 200 calls a month from addicts wanting to clean up, or their families. It keeps me awake, knowing the addicts are probably out on the streets tonight." Lara and others in the field blame the way the state distributes money to non-profit programs such as hers, which provide the bulk of public drug treatment. Last year, the state hired a for-profit, Virginia-based health management company, Value Options, to manage state resources for drug and alcohol programs. The company made a number of changes that it said would make the system more efficient and help more people. For example, Value Options changed the way the state reimburses private, non-profit treatment centers for addict care. The average stay in residential care facilities across Phoenix dropped to under 30 days instead of six months or longer. "It's drive-through therapy," Quintero said. "The fog (of drug use) isn't even removed . . . in many cases. There is not enough time to get to the reasons behind a client's addiction." Value Options also is challenging the amount of care outpatient counseling centers provide. "Value Options believes six group sessions is a lot, but we think the ideal is at least 24 visits, three a week, with a year of after-care," Lara said. In recent months, Quintero's facility, run by the non-profit Chicanos Por La Causa, has had empty beds, even with demand up. The reason: Value Options' requirements and paperwork are too costly, Quintero said. Value Options counters that the problem is lack of money. "In Arizona, there are not enough dollars to take care of all the people who need the care," said Helen Sommer, the company's director of communication. "Part of our job is to maximize the number of people who get treated." David Miller, CEO of the Arizona Council of Human Service Providers, said the problems are the result of years of underfunding by state lawmakers. "It's easy to paint Value Options as the bad guy; it may or may not be true," he said. "Almost all of the drug treatment centers in the state are on shaky ground." Following The Money:The availability of drug treatment in Arizona depends on the kind of addiction and what kind of addict is being treated. To survive, many drug rehabilitation centers are going after federal money, which has been on the rise. The DHS received $7 million more from the federal government for drug programs in 1999 than in 1998. But much of the money is earmarked for special groups, such as pregnant addicts, Native Americans, the homeless, those recently out of jail and the impoverished. As a result, there are five programs for pregnant addicts in the state but none to help the mothers stay clean after they give birth. New Arizona Family is one of the centers that has adapted. The east-central Phoenix center used to serve male and female addicts of all ages, but it's now switching to serve women only. Many other rehab slots are reserved for drug users coming through the legal system. About a quarter of inmates in all U.S. prisons were convicted of drug-related charges, and many require treatment while serving time. Outside of jail, half of all Arizonans in treatment programs were ordered there by a court. That's up from about one-third just three years ago. Those paroled from jail can get into treatment in two or three weeks because the court system purchases services for them and they have probation and parole officers helping them through the paperwork. That leaves fewer slots for everyone else. "Once you start prioritizing groups like pregnant addicts and criminals, it means you must turn other people away," Dye said. One of the groups shorted: kids. In Maricopa County, there are no residential rehab beds available for minors who need to get out of their homes to get clean or who already live on the streets, and there hasn't been since October, said Superior Court Judge John Foreman, who started the first juvenile drug court program in Arizona three years ago. "We need to take kids who are seriously addicted, detoxify them and get them into a residential treatment right away," he said. "In most cases, the best we can do now is to stick them in detention and detoxify them, and then send them home where they couldn't stay clean before." A few also get placed in a foster home or shelter. "One other option is to send them to the Department of Juvenile Corrections, but they have to stay at least a year to get into a substance abuse program," Foreman said. By not providing treatment to youngsters right away, their problems often intensify. "Most kids aren't serious addicts, but they are on a pathway to serious adult addiction," Foreman said. Foreman hopes that the juvenile detention center someday will have a wing for substance abuse rehabilitation. "Otherwise, we are relying solely on jail or prison," he said. Seeking Support:Treatment and prevention programs have had tough sledding in the Arizona Legislature over the past decade. The last major legislation was five years ago, when subsidized substance abuse programs were expanded to impoverished Arizonans. "All we have done is some minor tinkering with drug programs the past decade. We haven't looked at the system that exists and who it is serving and what happens to them afterwards," said Sen. Ruth Solomon, D-Tucson, who is leading an effort to fund more drug treatment. She and state Rep. Sue Gerard, R-Phoenix, want a special appropriation of $10 million this session from an untapped federal fund designed to provide temporary assistance to needy families. Much of that would be used to help parents get off drugs. The two say that spending money on drug treatment would save taxpayers money in the long run by keeping people out of jail and off welfare. It also would help women have healthy babies and keep families together, they said. "Isn't it a lot cheaper to treat them for $3,000 to $10,000 a year vs. the $17,000 it costs to incarcerate them?" said Jay Levenson, vice president for Southwest Behavioral Health in Phoenix. But that's not an easy sell to legislators, many of whom view drug addiction as a personal choice. "Many legislators still have this old blind notion that treatment doesn't work and all people have to do is just say no," said W. Mark Clark, chief executive officer of CODAC Behavioral Health of Tucson, which recently closed one substance abuse program and cut back another for lack of funding. "Our Legislature is more willing to build prisons to lock up people who have drug abuse problems than they are willing to spend money on treatment," Clark said. Value Options' Sommer said she's heard legislators say, "We will give you more money for mental health as long as you can promise none of it will go to the substance abuser." Legislators say they're not against treatment, they're just against treatment that doesn't work. "Almost everybody sees that there is a need. But a lot of people don't like throwing money down a rat hole, and I am one of them," said state Rep. Karen Johnson, R-Mesa. As chairwoman of the Appropriations subcommittee on health and welfare, Johnson said she sees "a lot of money being spent that is not accountable." "Sometimes, the courts put people in drug rehab programs," she added, "and if they don't want to go and don't want to recover, it seems to me that is a waste of money. Before I fund anything, I want some definitive information that proves this is working, the how and why." That kind of information can be hard to come by. The Department of Health Services released a study this fall of 415 addicts who completed treatment and 60 who didn't. The study followed the addicts for up to nine months. Its conclusion: Those who went through rehabilitation were more likely to have jobs and stay clean and less likely to be arrested than those who didn't get help. Many state-funded programs aren't scientifically evaluated at all, Solomon said. She said the governor's drug policy council needs to do a better job of gathering data so that legislators can make better decisions. Gov. Jane Hull said she is studying ways to assess treatment programs, although no assessments are under way. She said that although more money for drug treatment is a good idea, it has to be weighed against other needs. "In state government, there are always more needs than there are dollars to go around," she said. "At the same time, I am willing to push for more dollars if they can be proven effective." Though Johnson wants more accountability for drug dollars, she sees the value in having enough treatment. She is pushing a bill through this year's legislature for a new facility in the East Valley. Gerard believes that the Legislature's resistance to funding rehabilitation may be changing. "If there is more attention being paid to drug addiction this year, it is because there is more awareness of the problem as it touches more families, including those of legislators," she said. "Once it has touched you in some way, you understand it." The value of drug treatment isn't lost on former drug users including, Charlie DeMo, 46. A recent graduate of the Salvation Army's Harbor Lights, a long-term drug recovery program, DeMo now has his own apartment and car again. He visited his 22-year-old daughter, whom he hadn't seen in many years. He plays harmonica in a church group. Look at him closely, and you will see a tiny black-and-white yin-and-yang earring, reminding him to keep life balanced. "I have my life back again," he says. Published: January 22, 2000Copyright 2000, Arizona CentralRelated Articles:Everything's Different Overdose Changes Family - 1/22/2000 Phoenix Sting Paid Off for Cops - Part 6 - 1/21/2000 Led To Side Job as Arizona Drug Runner - 1/20/2000 Methods Have Place in Fight - 1/19/2000 Contest of Wits at U.S. Border - 1/18/2000 is Pipeline for Illegal Drugs - 1/17/2000 Losing Drug War - 1/16/2000 
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