A county department in Portland that funds a world-recognized drug rehabilitation program is offering to sacrifice it to help balance Multnomah County’s budget, reports the Oregonian. Officials come from around the globe to learn from the county’s Sanctions Treatment Opportunity Progress court program — the second-oldest of nearly 2,000 drug courts in the U.S. — yet county officials say their funding outlook next fiscal year is so dire they must cut somewhere. People familiar with the drug court program, which offers people caught possessing drugs a chance to avoid a felony conviction if they become drug-free, say that eliminating funding for the $1.4 million program would be a costly mistake.
Shutting down the program would not only hurt addicts, but also their children and society in general because some addicts will resort to crime to fuel their habits, advocates say. “There will be an increase in drug overdoses, babies born drug addicted and child-welfare cases,” said Rick Berman, program director at InAct, the Volunteers of America drug treatment program where most drug court offenders enroll. “The bottom line is people who desperately need treatment won’t be able to get treatment,” Laurie Hoyt Huffman, division director at InAct. “And that’s bad news for everyone.” Officials from the Multnomah County Department of Community Justice, however, say there are no easy choices and they must follow a county mandate to slash their budget by 12 percent come July 1. They’ve recommended eliminating funding for the program.