Money and Drug Addiction Treatment: Is NV about to Lose It All?

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STATE BUDGET red Rubber Stamp over a white background

For years, millions of dollars in both federal and state funding has been funneled into Nevada’s budget for the purposes of combatting substance use disorders across the state. Prevention efforts especially have been bulked up in recent years with an eye toward limiting the use of addictive prescription drugs and decreasing rates of prescription drug, methamphetamine, and marijuana abuse.

A five-year grant for $2.2 million allocated specifically for that purpose in Nevada will end in September, and state government and medical professionals are working overtime to try to replace that funding. Without significant financial resources, all government agencies, nonprofits, and small treatment programs dedicated to fighting the substance abuse problem in Nevada will be significantly hindered in their abilities to:

  • Increase awareness of the dangers of different substances.
  • Increase screenings to identify those who are struggling with substance use disorders.
  • Provide trainings for medical professionals, social workers, and others who are in a position to assist and support families in crisis due to addiction.
  • Improve access to and availability of addiction treatment services.

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A Public Health Approach?

While the focus for almost a decade now has been on stopping the abuse of opiate drugs and limiting risk factors, lawmakers realize that just as much time, money, and attention must be given to the use and abuse of other illicit substances. They also realize that perhaps the single-substance prevention focus is no longer the best use of resources.

Jamie Ross works with the PACT Coalition of Las Vegas. He said: “Opioids are the issue we all know and amphetamines are coming up, but if we can focus on creating healthy communities, and healthy people within those communities by focusing on the public health approach, the specific drug is less important than the community that we all live in.”

The idea is that by improving the quality of life, mental healthcare, and medical healthcare in communities that need more support, abuse of all substances will decline and substance use disorders will be caught earlier in their development.

Focused Effort on Risk Factors?

Other experts believe that if there is a heavier focus on substances viewed as a “gateway” to the use of “harder” drugs, it will have a significant impact on rates of addiction and overdose deaths in Nevada.

Kyle Devine is chief of the Bureau of Behavioral Health and Wellness and Prevention. He says Nevada’s budget for prevention of substance use and abuse is paid for with 20 percent of the funds provided by a block grant and allocated to those communities that have a comprehensive plan to address the problem locally. He believes that if more attention is paid to addressing early use of substances like alcohol and marijuana, fewer people will develop lifelong issues with drugs and alcohol.

Says Devine: “We know that in schools, with our younger age groups, that alcohol is still a problem as well as marijuana.”

He points that alcohol and marijuana is a problem for 26 percent and 20 percent of Nevada high school students, respectively.

Ross disagrees: “The science of prevention has come so far from the days of ‘just say no’ and DARE. There is now an actual science behind the way we do what we do, and in doing so we follow the public health model and we can cover every level of society.”

What Do You Think?

Focusing on prevention of alcohol and marijuana use in the high schools as well as emphasizing improved services for public health needs in the community both sound like an excellent use of resources. Unfortunately, with limited funds available to address the ongoing substance abuse and addiction problem, state leaders must be strategic in their approach.

What do you think would be the most effective use of funds? If someone in your family is struggling with substance use and abuse, do you believe that prevention efforts focused on teens and young adults would have helped to head off the problem before it started? Do you believe that improved public health services would have been a better way to support the entire family in making positive choices for their own health and wellness?