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Tuesday, January 30, 2001

States spend little
on drug prevention

Bullet The issue: Hawaii and other states devote much of their budgets on dealing with substance abuse but little of it on prevention and treatment.

Bullet Our view: The states' war on drugs should be more balanced in order to stop the cycle of drug abuse.

STATES make large expenditures on dealing with substance abuse, but very little of the money goes toward prevention and treatment. Mostly it is used to "shovel up the wreckage," according to a national study. Hawaii spends more per capita than the national average on substance abuse but less of that amount on prevention and treatment. State governments need to reassess these expenditures.

"Substance abuse and addiction is the elephant in the living room of state government, creating havoc with service systems, causing illness, injury and death and consuming increasing amounts of state resources," says Joseph A. Califano Jr., president of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.

Using 1998 figures, the center reported that Hawaii spent $438 million -- from a state budget of $5.1 billion -- on substance abuse, but a piddling $8,699 on prevention and treatment. Hawaii spent $368 per capita on substance abuse, substantially more than the national average of $299.

The share of Hawaii's budget dealing with the problem amounted to only 8 percent compared with a national average of 13 percent. That may be partly due to Hawaii's relatively large budget, which includes the burden of operating public schools. Elsewhere, counties normally shoulder that responsibility.

Viewed in another way, 35 cents of Hawaii's substance-abuse dollar goes to law enforcement, 33 percent to health, mental health and programs for the developmentally disabled, 11 percent to child and family assistance, and a mere 3 cents to substance-abuse treatment and prevention. The national average is 4 cents per substance-abuse dollar for treatment and prevention.

Califano urges that more be spent particularly on treatment aimed at preventing prisoners from committing drug-related crimes after their release. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy said the report shows the need for a "balanced strategy" to deal with drug abuse by implementing "treatment programs that follow a criminal from arrest to post-release follow-up."

Edward H. Jurith, acting director of the White House office, said, "We cannot simply arrest our way out of the problem. Treatment programs that follow a criminal from arrest to post-release follow-up must be implemented to end the cycle of drug abuse and crime."

In his State of the State address, Governor Cayetano proposed requiring drug-abuse treatment of nonviolent, first-time criminal offenders as an alternative to prison, an important shift in dealing with the problem of drug-related crimes. Hawaii and other states should continue to re-examine their methods of fighting the drug war to focus more on prevention and treatment than on coping with the consequences of drug abuse.

Religious charity plan
will require caution

Bullet The issue: President Bush has established an office to distribute funds to charities, including religious groups, for social services.

Bullet Our view: The program will need to be conducted carefully to comply with the constitutionally required separation of church and state.

ONE of President Bush's campaign proposals was to integrate religious groups with federally financed social services without breaching the separation of church and state. He has helped his cause by appointing a respected social scientist to head the effort. Continued caution will be necessary for the initiative to gain acceptance.

Encouragement and financial support of religion-based social programs will be assigned to a new office headed by John J. DiIulio Jr., a University of Pennsylvania professor of political science and widely published expert on juvenile crime. Bush also appointed former Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith as chairman of a new advisory board formed to complement the work of the new White House office.

The intent is for the government to support social services provided by religion-based groups without subsidizing religion. "We will not fund the religious activities of any group," Bush said.

Government support of religion-based charities is not new. In Hawaii, for example, the Catholic Office for Social Ministry, which helps people pay rent and utilities regardless of their religion, receives city and Federal Emergency Management Agency grants.

However, business and citizen generosity is the overwhelming source of funds for the Catholic program and other efforts such as Salvation Army, the Angel Network of Calvary-by-the-Sea Lutheran Church and the Agape Ministry, an interfaith group of churches in Makiki, Manoa and Waikiki.

Skeptics warn that separating social services from the religious aspects of such groups may be impossible. Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said many people in the Jewish community know and respect Goldsmith, "but any time you have a formal government endorsement of religion that this faith-based office conveys, that takes us down a path that too often in our history has turned out to be disastrous for religious freedom and religious tolerance."

The new Corporation for National Service will be directed to make billions of dollars available to both religion-based and secular charities on equal footing. Any commingling of funds for religious and social-service activities is likely to result in legal challenges, but the goal is worthwhile.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

Frank Bridgewater, Acting Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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© 2001 Honolulu Star-Bulletin