Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has tried and failed to get legislators to increase spending dramatically on substance-abuse treatment, saying that would be the No. 1 thing state leaders could do to fight crime, reports the Des Moines Register. Now, Miller hopes to target the money in hopes of being more successful: He’s asking for $17 million specifically for drug courts and programs that serve drug-addicted parents. Miller said treatment should be one of legislators’ most urgent priorities because “it comes as an enormous social cost that we can deal with in a much more effective way.” Politicians frequently give the topic lip service but no more money, he said.
House Speaker Christopher Rants said the state’s top prosecutor had the luxury of picking priorities without having to make tough budget decisions for the entire state. After years of belt-tightening, Iowa has $10 million less to treat near-record numbers of drug and alcohol abusers than it did five years ago. The result has been 4-to-6-week waits for treatment services in some places and fewer people served. Miller estimated it would take $25 million to provide treatment for all who need it. Vicki Sickels, a treatment counselor who quit using meth in 1998, said after failing in a shorter treatment program, she was allowed an extended stay in another program and was successful. “Being able to have those 90 days made all the difference in the world,” she said.