NC budget cuts reduce assistance for addicts

September 9, 2013 

North Carolina farms out most treatment for drug and alcohol abuse to private centers that help people with a combination of contributions and federal and state money. No one pretends that’s enough, and there are three state-run centers as well.

Sadly, Republican lawmakers, who concocted a flawed budget of breaks for the wealthy and businesses and harder hits for the middle class, cut funding for the state’s centers with the admonition that they should look harder at their books and their management.

What people who are addicts need is more, not fewer, places to go for long-term care. But now there will be a greater shortage of beds, thanks to the actions of the General Assembly, which means more people turning to already crowded emergency rooms for help. No one should want to see more people using expensive ERs, especially when such short-term help will not cover the kind of long-term care that addicts need.

One addict told The News & Observer he has a pattern of going in and out of rehab facilities. Longer-term treatment might make a difference, though it’s expensive.

But there’s no bargain in cutting back funding and cutting back care when that just means people with problems will get worse and become more at risk, that more families will be affected and that, in the long run, the state will have to spend more on treatment.

The more important problem, though, is the effect on children and spouses of untreated addicts.

Lawmakers should consider the human consequences when they’re slicing programs that really help people.

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