By Katie Murdoch Enterprise editor
Mill Creek officials are joining the effort to sway the state to reconsider funding cuts and stop further budget slashes for drug and alcohol addiction facilities in Snohomish County.
The City Council approved a resolution Jan. 26 asking state officials to reconsider a round of cuts that would slash another $ 1 million for addiction treatment facilities.
Councilman Mark Bond said the state likely realizes addiction treatment is not a luxury service but a priority.
“But these resolutions will help them justify their decision to support drug and alcohol treatment and cut elsewhere,” Bond wrote in an e-mail last week.
The council’s decision followed a letter from Evergreen Manor officials who are rallying support from Snohomish County cities. Manor staff wants the Legislature to reconsider funding cuts to drug and alcohol treatment facilities and stop making additional cuts.
Evergreen Manor offers the county’s only detoxification program for uninsured patients which will close if more funding cuts are approved.
The facility, first opened in 1973, offers alcohol and drug dependency rehabilitation and domestic violence treatment in Lynnwood, Everett and Sultan. More than 3,000 people are served by the agency each year, according to city documents.
Bond, a Manor board member and deputy sheriff, said when people face financial distress, drug and alcohol use rises.
“During these tough economic times the demand for services provided by Evergreen Manor will be going up, not down,” he said.
Approximately one-third, or more than $1 million, of state funding for low-income outpatient and detoxification services in Snohomish County was cut last summer, according to a letter from Manor executive director Linda Grant and board president Gregory Cooper.
As a result of budget cuts, Grant said the Manor turned away 100 people looking for treatment to help bring down staff’s case loads. The average patient is between ages 20 and 30, low income and addicted to prescription opiates or alcohol, she added.
Grant said the Manor is currently accepting eight people per month, down from 40 per month. Staff doesn’t assess prospective patients if they know the person can’t be helped within the next three to four months.
The Manor accepts roughly 100 people per month for detox, most of whom are there for the first time.
“It’s not a revolving door group,” she said.
This year, Gov. Chris Gregoire’s supplemental budget includes cutting $1.2 million for Snohomish County addiction treatment services that, if approved, would mean a total of more than $2 million in cuts for treatment centers across the county.
In Mill Creek, 73 percent, of the 124 people assessed for county-funded chemical dependency treatment between July 2008 and June 2009 were admitted for treatment.
In Snohomish County, 88 percent of the more than 4,000 residents assessed for county-funded treatment were admitted, during that same time period.
More than 75 percent of the 4,000 were referred to treatment as a result of being arrested and court ruling.
Bond said there isn’t a way for cities to ignore this problem and the options are to pay now for treatment options or pay later with crimes, punishment and children learning bad behavior.
“The city of Mill Creek incurs the costs of policing, arresting and prosecuting people who commit crimes in the city,” Bond said.
“We know that treatment does work,” Bond wrote.
Studies from the state Department of Social and Health Services show there is a 43 percent reduced likelihood of subsequent arrest for people who complete alcohol and other drug treatment.
Increased calls to police for inebriation, domestic violence and child abuse, drastic backlogs in court cases and rising costs for increased incarceration are among the impacts on cities without detox and low-income chemical dependency treatment, according to the Manor.
Grant said when people think of alcoholics they imagine a Skid Row type, when in reality most people with an addiction come from nice homes and are caring people when they are not using.
“They are nice people who get back to work, parent their children and do something with their lives,” she said.