A battle is brewing between legislators and Gov. Butch Otter, after Otter recommended no funding at all in his budget for substance abuse services now being covered by a soon-to-expire federal grant. Lawmakers from throughout the state have been working on the substance abuse issue for several years, and a joint committee that met over the summer has extensive recommendations for expansion of the state's efforts in that area.
"We've had a number of legislators meeting all summer long, trying to come up with solutions regarding mental health treatment and substance abuse treatment," said Senate Finance Chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert. "And yet the governor's budget seems to go backward from last year's effort." Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, the Senate Finance vice-chair, said, "It's critically important." With treatment, she said, "We have seen that the results are tremendous. If we're concerned about building prisons and the money that takes away from other areas like education, we need to pay attention to the success we've seen from our substance abuse efforts and fully fund those."
The state Health and Welfare Department requested $6.5 million in next year's budget, and 33 new positions, to replace the federal Access to Recovery grant that's funded contracted substance abuse treatment services in Idaho for the past three years. The agency also asked for an additional $6 million and 14 more positions to expand those services. Otter didn't recommend a penny for either request. The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee held a hearing on the budget on Tuesday; read the full story here in today’s Spokesman-Review.