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Stimulus Package Has No Funds for Addiction Block Grant

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The $819-billion economic stimulus plan recently approved by the House of Representatives included tax cuts, aid to states and a myriad of other spending from infrastructure improvement to job programs — but not the direct funding for alcohol and other drug treatment or prevention that advocates had hoped for.

The National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors (NASADAD) and 150 other groups had written to the House and Senate budget committees asking for $100 million for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant (SAPT) be included in the stimulus package. Citing the impact that block grant funds have on drug use, employment, crime, and housing, NASADAD argued that including the funding would be “a valuable way to foster economic growth and help those most in need of services.”

However, that plea apparently fell on deaf ears in Congress. Neither the bill passed on a 244-188 vote in the House on Jan. 22, or the measure being considered in the Senate, included SAPT block-grant funding. In fact, according to NASADAD, neither bill even mentions substance abuse or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The Senate bill does include $75 million for smoking-cessation programs, however — money that sponsor Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said would help the economy by cutting smoking-related healthcare costs. And both bills include increases for the Department of Justice's Byrne Justice Assistance program — $3 billion on the House measure and $1.5 billion for the Senate bill.

“Byrne grants help state and local governments to fund a broad range of law enforcement-related activities; among the allowable uses for Byrne funds are education, prevention and treatment services for drug addiction,” noted Gabrielle de la Gueronniere, deputy director for national policy at the Legal Action Center. “A number of states use some of their Byrne grant funds for drug treatment and alternative-to-incarceration programming.”

Also included was an increase in federal assistance for state Medicaid programs, and the Senate bill calls for an additional $400 million for the Social Services Block Grant “for States and local non-profits to deliver critical services to unemployed and low-income individuals struggling with the effects of the recession.” No such provision was included in the House bill, however, according to a NASADAD analysis of the stimulus plans.

Both plans featured significant funding for general prevention and wellness programs — $5.8 billion in the Senate bill and $3 billion in the House plan. The House measure, for example, said the goal is to prevent chronic diseases and thus lower healthcare costs. Health research and even health-related information technology funding is also part of the stimulus plan.

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