Phoenix Houses of Texas Testify for a Better Texas

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
Texas State Capitol

Capitol Hill, Austin, Texas

On February 13, 2013, the Texas House Appropriations Committee held a meeting to hear testimony regarding increasing the budgets for the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) in order to provide more and better substance abuse care to Texans in need.

Maeve O’Neill, Vice President and Deputy Regional Director for Phoenix Houses of Texas, traveled to Austin’s Capitol Hill to testify on behalf of Phoenix House, DSHS, and TDCJ and advocate that funds be appropriated for prevention and treatment services.

The increase of funds for preventing and treating substance abuse disorders in Texas is necessary. Over the last two decades, the state’s population has grown by more than 8 million, but while the state budget has more than doubled to keep up with the population, funding for DSHS substance abuse programs has decreased. This decrease in funding has led to several sad statistics: 38 percent of individuals who seek treatment of DSHS funded programs are wait listed and not given access to prevention and treatment services; and while many schools are on waiting lists across Texas to have access to funded prevention programs, DSHS is only granted enough funding from the state to provide prevention programs for 1 in 8 public schools.

It’s unfortunate that substance abuse disorder services have lost state funding in Texas over the last 20 years, not only because it doesn’t give access to those in need, but because it’s effective. In 2012, 56 percent of individuals who were unemployed upon admission to treatment were working at the time of their follow-up. And they weren’t just employed at their follow-ups—89 percent of those who received treatment were abstinent, and there were no re-arrests.

In schools that have access to state-funded prevention programs, alcohol and drug use has gone down. In 1990, when prevention programs began receiving state funding, the percentage of secondary students with a lifetime use of alcohol was 81 percent. Since then, it has dropped to 58 percent. Prevention programs haven’t just helped secondary students, they’ve also aided in dropping the overall use of alcohol, tobacco, inhalants, and marijuana among elementary students to the lowest rate since 1990.

And while increasing funding for substance abuse treatment and prevention programs may sound expensive, it’s actually a strong investment. Without treatment and prevention programs, substance use disorders cost the state of Texas a lot of money. Instead of money going towards helping Texans receive the prevention programs and treatment services they need, the state currently spends money on prisons and jails, public safety, courts, alternative schools, homelessness, emergency rooms, Medicaid, TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), foster care, and more. When state dollars are spent on addiction treatment programs, every dollar invested yields a return between four to seven dollars in drug-related crime, justice costs, and theft. Including healthcare costs, the savings can be 12:1.

Phoenix Houses of Texas‘s Maeve O’Neill focused on these facts and statistics in her testimony to the House Appropriation Committee alongside other prevention and substance abuse treatment providers in order to make a positive change. Substance abuse treatment and prevention programs work, but the current funding just isn’t enough. Imagine the difference that could be made with this investment— lowered drug and alcohol use rates in youth, better lives for people in recovery, and a better Texas.

If you or a loved one needs help for a substance abuse issue, Phoenix House is here for you. Email us or call today at 1 888 671 9392.

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