Bill would require state to pay smaller share for drug, alcohol programs

Posted: Tuesday, March 11, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) -- The state would pick up a smaller share of the cost of drug and alcohol treatment and prevention programs under a bill that cleared a Senate committee Monday.

The measure is one of more than 20 cost-saving or revenue-raising bills introduced last week at the request of Gov. Frank Murkowski.

Senate Bill 124 would require drug and alcohol programs to come up with a 25 percent match for the state grants they receive.

Now they only have to come up with a 10 percent match, said Elmer Lindstrom, a special assistant in the Department of Health and Social Services.

A 25 percent match is typical of the department's other grant programs, Lindstrom told the Senate Health Education and Social Services Committee on Monday.

The department estimates the change would save the state $1.6 million a year.

Sen. Gretchen Guess, D-Anchorage, questioned an assertion in the governor's letter accompanying the bill that services would be unaffected because communities would step forward to increase local contributions.

''We can't really say that because the local communities are either going to have to raise taxes, or in a place like Anchorage that has a tax cap, choose to either fund these services or not fund something else,'' Guess said.

Lindstrom said the department assumes the grant recipients will be able to come up with the additional required match.

''That's based on our experience with other grant programs,'' Lindstrom said. ''This truly is an anomaly being only 10 percent.''

About 115 groups, ranging from Tanana Chiefs Conference in Fairbanks to Mat-Su Recovery Center in Wasilla, receive the Division of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse grants.

In his letter accompanying the bill, Murkowski states that the bill does not reflect a lack of commitment to substance abuse treatment. He said in his budget for the coming year, he proposes spending an additional $3.54 million in state funds on alcohol treatment for parents whose children are in foster care and for adolescents in rural Alaska. That money would come from an increase last year in the state alcohol tax.

Some programs would not be affected by the proposed change in the match rate, Lindstrom. Those providing treatment for young people or women with children would not have to pay more, nor would programs receiving grants of less than $30,000.

Grants for community-based suicide prevention programs, which are administered by the Division of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, would be entirely exempt from the match requirement.

No members of the public testified on the bill.

It passed the Senate Health Education and Social Services Committee on Monday, although Sen. Bettye Davis, D-Anchorage, said allowing the bill to move from the committee did not necessarily mean she supports it.

The measure now goes to the Senate Finance Committee.

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