Passed in 2000, Proposition 36 transformed California drug sentencing laws. Nearly five years after voters made the sweeping changes to emphasize treatment over jail, the Sacramento Bee found that the system can fail to protect those it’s intended to help. A Bee review of some 5,000 pages of state reports and court records since voters approved Proposition 36 found more than 40 instances in which patients died, suffered injuries, overdosed on drugs or were otherwise at risk in poorly regulated programs or with unlicensed, unethical or careless drug counselors.
Proposition 36 brought more than 200,000 new patients and an onslaught of new scrutiny to substance abuse treatment. our years after the initiative first went into effect, the state agency in charge imposed its first-ever training and education standards for counselors. But many in the treatment field say the standards fall woefully short. The state has left an unregulated profession that treats a life-threatening illness foundering for decades, and the best they can come up with are regulations that require three college classes (for counselors),” said Warren Daniels, president of the California Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors. “Your beautician or barber has to have more training than that to cut your hair.”