SJR 77: Joint Subcommittee Studying Strategies
and Models for the Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse
July 31, 2008
The first meeting
of the joint subcommittee was held at the General Assembly Building in
Richmond. Senator Emmett W. Hanger, Jr., was elected chair and Delegate
John O'Bannon III was elected vice-chair.
Nathalie Molliet-Ribet presented the Joint Legislative Audit and Review
Commission's report, Mitigating the Cost of Substance Abuse in the Commonwealth.
Ms. Molliet-Ribet stated that substance abuse cost the Commonwealth approximately
$613 million in 2006, with $595 million, or 96% of the total cost, resulting
from criminal justice-related expenditures, primarily the costs of housing
offenders convicted of drug-related crimes. She noted that during the
same period, state and local governments spent $102 million to provide
substance abuse treatment and prevention services. She stated that evidence
conclusively shows that treatment works, and that the fiscal cost of substance
abuse to the Commonwealth and localities can be reduced through treatment
and prevention services.
described a number of recommendations for increasing the effectiveness
of substance abuse treatment and prevention services and limiting the
costs of substance abuse to the Commonwealth and local governments.
Dept of Mental Health, Mental Retardation & Substance Abuse Services
Raymond Ratke presented the department's response to the Joint Legislative
Audit and Review Commission report, highlighting efforts undertaken by
the Department to comply with the recommendations contained in the report.
Dr. Mady Chalk,
Director, Center for Policy Analysis and Research, Treatment Research
Dr. Chalk discussed elements of successful and cost-effective substance
abuse treatment programs, noting that substance abuse is a chronic disease
that needs to be managed in a manner similar to management of other chronic
diseases. Dr. Chalk reiterated the point made earlier that treatment works
to limit the impact of substance abuse, and volunteered to provide information
to the joint subcommittee on promising substance abuse treatment models
in other states.
Dr. Joel Grube,
Director Pacific, Institute for Research & Evaluation
Dr. Grube presented information on substance abuse prevention models specifically
targeting adolescent and underaged drinking. He highlighted programs that
have proven to be successful in reducing substance abuse among these populations,
including increasing alcohol taxes and graduating licensing.
Occupational Enterprises, Inc.
Douglas Meade of Occupational Enterprises, Inc. began a series of presentations
from speakers representing a coalition of interested stakeholders from
Southwest Virginia. Mr. Meade characterized Southwest Virginia as "under
attack" by drugs. He stated that the coalition is working to inventory
effective substance abuse programs.
Exec. Director, Cumberland Mountain Community Services Board
Ron Allison expressed concerns regarding the effects of current low Medicaid
reimbursement for drug abuse treatment. He explained that in Southwest
Virginia, the only consistently available treatment for person suffering
from substance abuse problems is a five- to seven-day detoxification program
that, absent sufficient support and follow-up services, accomplishes little.
Mr. Allison noted a need for data sharing among the agencies and institutions
providing treatment and for gender-specific treatment, particularly for
pregnant women, and pointed out that prevention programs based on evidence-based
practices are successful and should be incorporated into substance abuse
treatment programs. Finally, Mr. Allison observed that since the drugs
most abused are legally acquired prescription drugs, area physicians need
to develop pain management programs.
Director, Washington County Department of Social Services
Tom Casteel described the effect of substance abuse on local social services
departments, and explained that substance abuse has become the most common
reason for a child to enter foster care in Southwest Virginia, resulting
in a substantial increase in foster care needs. Mr. Casteel also stated
that cases of substance-exposed infants are rising steadily.
Dennis Lee, Commonwealth’s
Attorney for Tazewell County
Dennis Lee noted that the county crime rate tripled after the introduction
of OxyContin to the region and that as much as 90% of crime in the county
was related to substance abuse. Mr. Lee stated that Tazewell County had
built a new jail which, due to the sudden and massive increase in substance
abuse-related crimes, was full and beyond capacity at the time it opened.
He said the county has a fledgling, nonstatutory drug court that has been
successful in addressing substance abuse problems in the county, but that
the drug court lacks sufficient funding and currently relies on community
resources to function. Acknowledging that Tazewell has found some programs
that work such as the drug court and day reporting centers, Mr. Lee stated
that the programs are woefully underfunded and Tazewell is a community
Southwestern VA Alliance for Manufacturing
Bruce Kravitz spoke about the need for skilled factory labor in Southwest
Virginia and the difficulty in finding or keeping good employees. He said
that many potential good workers either fail, or refuse to submit to,
drug screening and that this has resulted in difficulty in filling open
Occupational Enterprises, Inc.
Mark Larson stressed the need for a "system of care" approach
in treating substance abuse issues, and stated that the following are
needed to create a successful program: drug courts, residential treatment
centers, an integrated information system, and aftercare including provisions
for jobs, housing, daycare, and transportation. He noted that $1 spent
on substance abuse treatment could save $4-$7 in other costs.
President, McShin Foundation
Mr. Shinholser described the goals of the McShin Foundation, a nonprofit
substance abuse treatment facility in Richmond, and how the foundation
works to achieve these goals. He stressed the importance of including
persons who have been through the recovery process in substance abuse
treatment programs. By way of conclusion, Mr. Shinholser emphasized the
need to think clearly about substance abuse treatment and prevention programming,
to ensure that the best and most effective programs are in place.
The next meeting date will be posted on the committee website and the
General Assembly website as soon as information is available.
The Hon. Emmett
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