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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

Idaho slashes substance abuse treatment services due to budget shortfall

Idaho’s state health agency has dramatically cut its spending on substance abuse treatment, due to a budget shortfall that took officials by surprise last fall, the Idaho Statesman reports. The cuts, which could last through the end of June, do not affect people who started treatment before the state ratcheted down its spending. But health care providers say the cuts are keeping many people from getting into treatment now, writes Statesman reporter Audrey Dutton, including IV methamphetamine users, men and women with alcohol addictions, and some Idahoans who need court-ordered treatment but cannot afford it.

Idaho substance abuse providers said the problem affects anywhere from 33 to 80 percent of their prospective clients. The cuts have eliminated the option of inpatient rehab for many Idahoans who need it, providers said. The only path to treatment now, they said, is to be charged with a felony or to end up in one of the specialty courts for issues like mental health or domestic violence.

“What ends up happening is if you’re not a criminal, and you don’t have Medicaid, [you] fall in the gaps,” said Debbie Thomas, CEO of the Walker Center, which runs a 48-bed treatment center in Gooding and outpatient care in Twin Falls. “It’s the ones that are working, lower socioeconomic levels, and they don’t get services because the Department of Health and Welfare is supposed to be that stopgap money.”

Officials with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare say the cuts are temporary, that they don’t plan to seek help from lawmakers, and that spending could be ramped up again as soon as this spring. Dutton’s full story is online here.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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