Treatment Reaping Little in Substance Abuse Aid

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- States spend billions of dollars cleaning up the "wreckage" of drug, alcohol and cigarette abuse -- about as much as they pay for higher education -- but little of that money goes to treatment and prevention programs, according to a private study released yesterday.

The three-year, state-by-state study, titled "Shoveling Up: The Impact of Substance Abuse on State Budgets," estimates that states spent $81.3 billion dealing with substance abuse in 1998, about 13 percent of their budgets. Of the total, $7.4 billion was for tobacco-related illnesses.

Of the total spent, about $3 billion was for prevention and treatment programs. The rest was drawn from state services ranging from law enforcement and welfare to health care and education.

"This is truly insane public policy," said Joseph A. Califano Jr., president of National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, which conducted the study. "States that want to reduce crime, slow the rise in Medicaid spending, move mothers and children from welfare to work and responsible and nurturing family life must shift from shoveling up the wreckage to preventing children and teens from abusing drugs."

The study of states plus Washington, D. …