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Bush's Budget Plan Cuts Treatment, Prevention Funding

Significant cuts to the budgets of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) and the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) were some of the lowlights of the Bush administration's budget for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) -- part of an FY2008 spending plan that trims or eliminates a number of prominent federal discretionary programs.

"Bush's proposal would provide a big increase in military spending to fight the war in Iraq while squeezing federal health-care programs and cutting most domestic agencies to below fiscal 2006 levels to meet his goal of eliminating the deficit in five years," noted the American Counseling Association.

The president's budget plan calls for cutting $46.9 million from the $398.9-million CSAT budget and $36.9 million from the $192.9-million CSAP budget. The CSAT budget would still include about $98 million for the administration's Access to Recovery program -- which provides treatment vouchers that can be used at faith-based as well as other types of treatment programs -- but would earmark $25 million of that money for discretionary grants for methamphetamine treatment; these grants would be directed at states with high levels of meth abuse.

Proposed funding cuts within SAMHSA totaled $158.7 million. Within CSAT, funding for the Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral and Treatment (SBIRT) program would rise $11.5 million, and the Drug Courts and Young Offenders Reentry programs would get $13.7 million more, but the Pregnant and Postpartum Women program would be cut by $6.5 million and the agency's Children/Adolescent/Family Programs would receive $9.9 million less next year. CSAT's Targeted Capacity Expansion program also would be cut by $12 million, to $17.8 million, and Addiction Technology Transfer Centers would get $1.2 million less than they did last year.

The administration is calling for cutting CSAP's Strategic Prevention Framework Incentive Grant program by $10.1 million (to $95.4 million) and eliminating the Evidence Based Practices, the Center for the Advancement of Prevention Technologies (CAPT), Dissemination/Training, and Best Practices Program Coordination programs entirely.

Block Grant Funding Static, But Rules Changing

The keystone Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment (SAPT) Block Grant would be level-funded at $1.759 billion. In perhaps the biggest policy change included in the budget plan, the administration said that states which fail to submit National Outcome Measures in FY08 "will not receive more than 95 percent of their SAPT Block Grant allocation."

"The undistributed funds will be redistributed among the States based on the current statutory authorization for the program," according to the Bush budget document. "SAMHSA will work with [HHS], [the] Office of Management and Budget and Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to develop criteria for compliance on submission of the National Outcomes Measures data."

In the area of basic research, the National Institute on Drug Abuse will receive about the same amount of funding -- $1 billion -- as it did last year, while the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism would receive a modest $900,000 increase, to $436.5 million.

If Congress goes along with Bush's fiscal 2008 spending plan, an additional $10 million would be allocated to the Drug-Free Communities Act, raising funding for the grant program to $90 million. The administration continues to show more faith in ad campaigns than community-based prevention, however, calling for spending an additional $31 million on the National Anti-Drug Media Campaign and bringing total program funding to $130 million.

Assault on Drug-Free Schools Continues

As usual, the administration is calling for huge cuts in the U.S. Department of Education's Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities (SDFS) program, which has been under attack in practically every budget cycle this decade. Bush wants to cut $246.5 million from the State Grants portion of the program; ironically, this is actually better news than in recent years, since it would leave $100 million for community-based prevention grants (the last two administration budgets called for eliminating the state grants program outright). The Bush plan would eliminate the $32.4-million alcohol use and reduction portion of the grants programs, though the President would add $82.9 million to the National Programs portion of SDFS.

Changes in FY08 funding levels are relative to Congress' continuing resolution (CR) for FY2007 spending, since federal lawmakers last year failed in their constitutional duty to pass a timely federal budget. "Although Congress has not yet completed the FY 2007 appropriations process, it is expected that most programs, including those that fund alcohol and drug prevention, treatment, and education services, will receive funding level to fiscal year 2006," according to the Legal Action Center.

Even the notably reticent National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors (NASADAD) called the administration's FY2008 budget plan "tight," and Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) termed it "a mixed bag for our field, with increases recommended for a very small handful of programs, while many other programs were severely cut."

"If we want to see cuts to critical programs restored and proposed increases come to fruition, it is imperative that our field make advocacy a major priority throughout the entire appropriations process," CADCA told its members. "As the appropriations process continues, we will need to flood Congress with letters so that they are aware of the devastating impact some of the draconian cuts proposed in the Presidents FY 2008 budget would have on you and your communities."

Other Bush budget recommendations included:

$220 million for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program, a cut of $4.7 million.

$3.5 million for the State Department's International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Demand Reduction Program, a cut of $6.4 million

Congress Gets Next Crack

Overall, the administration's FY08 budget calls for spending about $700 billion on programs within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), an increase of $28 billion compared to 2007, according to HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, who said the budget, "sets out an aggressive, yet responsible, budget that funds our priorities and helps sustain our long-term commitment to seniors and low-income Americans. We are serving our citizens with compassion while maintaining sensible stewardship of their tax dollars."

The administration's budget highlights for HHS touts "nearly $884 million in activities to help those trying to escape the cycle of substance abuse; reduce the number of children who are abused and neglected; increase the number of children in foster care who are given permanent, adoptive homes; and meet the anticipated needs of refugees and unaccompanied alien children who come to this nation each year."

But Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), an advocate for addiction treatment and prevention, said that while Bush "claims this budget will get the nation out of the red by 2012 ... the bulk of the spending reductions affect the most vulnerable.

"I'm concerned that once again critical initiatives like No Child Left Behind, Head Start and local law-enforcement programs are drastically underfunded," said Kennedy. "Community Services Block Grants, which fund a wide variety of programs for low-income families, are eliminated, as is the Preventive Health and Health Services Grant, which was used in Rhode Island for programs in health technology."

Congress will begin working on its FY2008 budget after it completes work on the FY2007 budget, which originally was due last October. The new Democrat-controlled Congress has pledged to implement "pay as you go" rules in the budget process, meaning that any increases for programs be offset by cuts in other areas -- a procedure that could put obvious limits on efforts to increase discretionary spending at agencies like HHS, SAMHSA, and the Education department.

ONDCP is expected to release the 2007 National Drug Control Strategy shortly; the strategy should provide more budget details and information on spending priorities.
Source: Bob Curley, www.jointogether.org/news/features/2007/bushs-budget-plan-cuts.html

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