Former White House Drug Spokesman Bob Weiner Urges Doubling Drug Treatment Budget

RW 01.29.2010 12:48 PM
in Behavioral Health Central Daily Update

Joins policy analyst Zoe Pagonis in declaring "Drug War's Wrong Focus"

(Washington, DC and Maryland) – “With 20.8 million Americans needing treatment but unable to get it, Congress should double the $5 billion currently budgeted for treatment and prevention,” says former White House Drug Policy Spokesman Bob Weiner. As President Obama prepares the new federal budget, Weiner asserts that “increasing drug treatment to stop the main catalyst of crime and save families would be an extraordinarily rational policy shift.”

Weiner reiterated his call first made in an op-ed column this summer in the Baltimore Sun, “Drug War's Wrong Focus.” Weiner and policy analyst Zoe Pagonis contend, “This $5 billion investment translates to real savings of $35 billion for American taxpayers.

According to a study commissioned by the U.S. Army, for every dollar invested in drug treatment, taxpayers save upward of $7 in crime-related reductions due to less incarceration and hospitalization.”

They add, “The point here is not to disparage law enforcement — a key part of the very real reductions in national crime and drug statistics — but to add to essential treatment efforts that will get at the rest of the remaining serious problem.”

Weiner and Pagonis say, “The Obama administration is proposing to spend an even higher percentage of its anti-drug resources on law enforcement. The 3.3 percent reduction in treatment and prevention initiatives exacerbates the bias toward enforcement, which now represents 65.6 percent of the budget — even higher than the last administration's 62.3 percent.”

“Treatment is cost-effective and works. Participants in the Baltimore City Drug Treatment Court were re-arrested 34.5 percent fewer times than other offenders, and the court found a 36-percent return on the initial $8 million investment.”

“According to the Justice Department this past May, 68 percent of arrestees in 10 cities tested positive for illegal drugs. As long as there are addicts and drug abusers, people will buy and sell drugs.”

Weiner and Pagonis conclude, “President Barack Obama was right to increase the National Drug Control budget last year by $224.3 million, but the focus is not where it's needed most. If they really want to stop crime and prevent addiction, the administration and Congress need to give treatment and prevention programs far more standing in the nation's drug control budget.”