TX Spends Much More on Drug Enforcement Than Treatment

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An estimated 1.6 million adult Texans have substance use disorders, many addicted to drugs that arrive illegally from Mexico. Texas spends significantly more on trying to catch the smugglers than on treating the addicts, the Texas Tribune reports. Critics of that approach claim shifting more money to treating addiction would reduce the demand for drugs, theoretically giving Mexican cartels less incentive to smuggle their wares into the country. “If we can begin to reduce demand in this country … then supply will not be that much of an issue,” said criminologist William Kelly of the University of Texas at Austin. “You can’t even come close to beginning to turn off the spigot. Let’s quit pretending we are.”

Last year, Texas lawmakers ponied up $800 million for border security – boots, guns, cars and troopers on the ground – and set aside about $90 million for voluntary drug services, though the treatment pool is boosted with federal dollars. Of the estimated 1.6 million adult Texans with substance use disorders, almost 700,000 qualify for state-funded care based on financial need. Only about 6 percent of those who qualify receive treatment, and wait times for those wanting help average about two weeks and sometimes stretch into months. About half of those who enter voluntary treatment complete the program. The criminal justice system received much more — nearly $300 million — in state funds to provide drug treatment services for convicts. About 8,000 beds are set aside for programs to help treat people either during their time in prison or as an alternative to prison.

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