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Drug, alcohol treatment agencies say funding reduces long-term costs



Published: Wed, February 9, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Leaders of the agencies met with Mahoning County commissioners to ask for continued funding.

YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning County's drug and alcohol treatment agencies asked county commissioners to try to preserve local funding for its programs.

Commissioners Anthony Traficanti, John McNally IV and David Ludt met Tuesday with the county's Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services Board and the ADAS treatment providers network to discuss the county's substance abuse treatment and prevention system. They also discussed challenges the system faces if state and local funding is lost or substantially cut.

Speakers emphasized that the treatment network and its programs save taxpayers millions of dollars and reduce crime.

Jerry Carter, executive director of Neil Kennedy Recovery Clinic in Youngstown, said he has been in the addiction treatment field for 35 years, and it is rare to see the level of dedication and partnering that is happening in the county to run "a strong continuum of [drug and alcohol treatment] services, both long and short term, for juveniles and women."

He said public money is used as leverage to get federal money to continue treatment.

Judge Jack Durkin of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court spoke of the positive work of the county's felony, juvenile and misdemeanor drug courts that are used as alternatives to sending people to jail.

Success stories

Judge Durkin said the felony drug court has served more than 425 county residents since it began in 1998. A total of 192 people successfully completed the program, which means they were drug and alcohol free for at least six months, earned the General Education Development diploma, and if needed, obtained jobs.

Perhaps more importantly, fewer than 14 of them have been re-arrested, Judge Durkin said. Based on statistics that show it costs about $20,000 or more a year to incarcerate a person vs. $3,000 a year in treatment, the felony drug court has saved the county more than $5 million over that seven-year period, he said.

Martin K. Gaudiose, a Youngstown native who is chief of the division of treatment and recovery for the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services, said there likely will be significant cuts on the state level for treatment programs. Those cuts will be passed down to the local level. He said the state, like the county, faces budgetary problems.

Gaudiose said the county has one of the best drug treatment partnerships in the state and has been aggressive in seeking federal dollars for treatment programs. He suggested the commissioners look to the county's Department of Job and Family Services or Children Services Board to see if any money from those departments can be redirected toward drug and alcohol treatment.

David L. Schaffer, executive director of the county's MCADAS board, said the board has a good track record of leadership in planning and implementing treatment programs and has successfully worked with private agencies for years.

"The major benefit of treatment is, in the long run, it saves the taxpayers money," Schaffer said.

All the participants say the drug problem may well escalate if treatment funding is cut. They spoke about increased use of heroin, OxyContin and crack cocaine in the suburbs as well as the inner city.




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