Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Lack of drug treatment hurts schools and foster care

Mary Margaret Farabee began working to combat substance abuse after the death of her own child in 1996, and she sees the issue as closely intertwined with all the other big issues facing the Texas Legislature -- especially school finance and foster care. Fewer than five percent of Texans who would benefit from drug treatment are receiving it, she wrote in an Austin Statesman op ed piece yesterday. Farabee is a boardmember of the Phoenix Academy, a well-regarded juvenile drug treatment facility in Austin. She thinks the state's failure to deal with the medical, instead of just the law enforcement aspect of drug abuse has heightened the crisis:
Substance abuse poses a grave threat to Texas, raising the costs of health care, welfare and criminal justice, while reducing productivity. We can't dispute the connection between substance abuse and two other key issues facing the Legislature: public school financing and the reorganization of the foster care system. As with nearly every other government program, a comprehensive effort to diagnose and treat substance abuse will reap benefits in both of these areas.
Our education system will be greatly strengthened if we can eliminate the drug abuse that makes so many children and adolescents ineducable. Similarly, nothing taxes the foster care system like the family breakdown resulting from substance abuse.
Rather than cut treatment services to address education and foster care, legislators must recognize the desperate need for investment to strengthen both systems over the long haul.

In the workplace, substance abuse is the leading cause of lateness and absenteeism. Substance-abusing workers are not only unproductive, they can also be counterproductive, and workers with substance abusing family members are also likely to be less productive. A Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse study finds that lost productivity is the largest economic cost of substance abuse, costing Texas $11.2 billion in 2000.

The most tragic impact of substance abuse is on families. It is profoundly moving to see families both wealthy and destitute struggling with such a crisis.
Check out the rest. She's connecting a lot of important dots most people don't think about much. I just hope folks over at the Texas Lege are in a listening mood.

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