ACLU of PA Calls for Restoration of Funds for Drug and Alcohol Treatment and Rehabilitation

April 8, 2003 12:00 am

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Statement of Larry Frankel, Legislative Director ACLU of Pennsylvania


PHILADELPHIA — The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania calls upon Governor Rendell and the Pennsylvania General Assembly to restore the $100 million for drug and alcohol treatment and rehabilitation that were sacrificed in the recently enacted spending plan. We think that it is critically important to all of the people of Pennsylvania that these vital services be properly funded.

The ACLU is deeply troubled by Governor Rendell’s March 27th statement attempting to justify these cuts. He said that 80 percent of the people who go through substance abuse treatment programs become recidivists. Aside from the fact that treatment success rates are much higher than that, it is truly unfortunate that Governor Rendell used the loaded term “recidivists” to describe people who are genuinely struggling to overcome a disease. This kind of inaccurate stigmatizing of people in need of behavioral health services can only be harmful to those who are trying to recover.

Perhaps the Governor was really referring to the increased crime rate that will inevitably result from these cuts. Decreased funding means that treatment and rehabilitation services will not be available to those in need. Individuals who require these services will likely go back to using. Many will then commit crimes in order to support their habits. Individuals who get caught committing crimes will end up in our already over-crowded prisons, shifting the burden to a system that is very expensive to maintain.

Over the last several years the ACLU of Pennsylvania has had the privilege on a number of occasions to stand with the District Attorneys of this Commonwealth to call for more funding, not less, for drug and alcohol treatment. Advocates, who disagree on how best to fight crime, agree that such services are a common sense alternative to incarceration. We recognize that public funds can be better spent on paying for treatment and rehabilitation rather than on paying for the consequences of these cuts. It is foolish to attempt to save money by cutting treatment and rehabilitation programs, because the state will surely spend more money in the long run on prisons.

Governor Rendell and the Pennsylvania General Assembly legislature should rethink these cuts. Certainly it is in the best interest of Pennsylvania to help individuals overcome their addictions as soon as possible, before the effect of drug and alcohol abuse further devastates their lives and the lives of those around them.

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