Bill reduces state support for some treatment programs

Posted: Friday, April 11, 2003

JUNEAU The state Senate passed legislation Thursday that would cut state support for drug and alcohol treatment.

Senate Bill 124 would require some agencies providing treatment and prevention services to come up with a 25 percent match for state grants. Currently they need a 10 percent match.

Health and Social Services Department officials say 25 percent is a more typical match for their programs. The bill, which was introduced by Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski, is expected to save the state about $1.6 million a year.

Opponents argue the state should not dilute support for treatment programs. They say alcohol abuse is a huge problem and is at the root of many of the state's social problems.

This is not the proper area or the right area to tighten our belts,'' said Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel. If anything, the state needs to invest more, he said.

But Sen. Con Bunde, R-Anchorage, said more money does not necessarily mean better results. If communities invest more of their own money through the higher match rate, they may demand better performance, Bunde said.

Sen. Gary Wilken, R-Fairbanks, said the bill is well crafted to spare many programs.

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 would be exempt from any match.

The bill passed the Senate 11-8, with Sen. Robin Taylor, R-Wrangell, joining minority Democrats in opposing the measure.

Taylor said he voted against the bill because the state raised taxes on alcohol last year from about 3 cents a drink to about 10 cents a drink.

I figure if they're going to increase taxes on liquor 300 percent, they ought to spend some of it on treatment,'' Taylor said.

The Murkowski administration has proposed spending an additional $3.54 million in the 2004 fiscal year on drug and alcohol treatment for parents whose children are in foster care and for adolescents in rural Alaska. But some treatment advocates say more is needed.

Senate Bill 124 could come up for a reconsideration vote Friday. If the outcome does not change, it will go to the House.

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