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Thursday, October 30, 2008

NORA Proposition 5 Drug Treatment for Youth and Adults

As the Executive Director of the Drug Abuse Alternatives Center (DAAC), the largest provider of publicly funded alcohol and other drug treatment in Sonoma County, I have seen both the positives and negatives of Proposition 36, the precursor to Proposition 5. Overall, in my opinion, Prop. 36, the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act of 2000, has been a success in Sonoma County and the State as a whole.

Ironically, I, along with many other treatment professionals, opposed Prop. 36 before it was passed. We were concerned that it had been written by outsiders who did not consult with California’s treatment providers and that it did not have strong enough sanctions for non-compliance with treatment, a key argument today by those who oppose Prop. 5.

In fact, I, and many others, turned out to be wrong. In Sonoma County, thousands of individuals have benefited from treatment instead of incarceration and our Public Safety has not been compromised. Statewide, 200,000 have received treatment and UCLA’s study of Prop. 36 not only showed that treatment has worked, but also that it has saved California over $2 Billion since 2000. The only negatives I have seen are that Prop. 36 has been under-funded which has caused long treatment waits and that no provision was made for treatment for youth.

Prop. 5 will improve on Prop. 36 by:

• Providing a systematic treatment system for adults that will unify the current system of Diversion, Prop. 36 Treatment and Drug Courts into one system with three tracks. Track 3, Drug Court, will not be eliminated, as some have said, but will, in fact, be funded at twice the level it is now.

• Providing $65 Million state-wide for funding of treatment for adolescents which will meet the spectrum of youth needs including family therapy, educational and employment stipends, mental health interventions and much more. Prop. 5 will provide services to youth before they get into trouble with the law.

Prop. 5 will do all this without compromising public safety. Judges, not the offender, will determine whether to send the individual to treatment or to jail. Offenders convicted of serious and violent crimes and sex offences will not be eligible.

Prop. 5 will also reform the prison and parole systems. Currently California spends $46,000 per year to house each inmate (twice the national average) and yet our recidivism rate is almost 70%, while nation-wide recidivism is about 35%. By reducing the number of parolees who are returned to prison for dirty urinalysis tests and allowing them to receive treatment, Parole Agents will be able to concentrate their efforts on supervising parolees who were originally incarcerated for serious and violent crimes.

Prop. 5 will do all this with no new taxes and save the State an estimated $2.5 Billion in its first few years according to the impartial and non-partisan Legislative Analysts Office. Our current system is clearly not working. Please join me, the League of Women Voters, the California NAACP and many other organizations and individuals in voting yes on Proposition 5.

Michael Spielman, MFT
Executive Director
Drug Abuse Alternatives Center
2380 Professional Drive, Santa Rosa
(707) 571-2233 x 308

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