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Mental health money sought to fight drug abuse

BY GREGORY PHILLIPS, The Herald-Sun
 

DURHAM — To kick off an initiative to combat drug abuse, local mental health officials are asking Durham County for more than $500,000 in the upcoming financial year.

The money would fund the first step in an ambitious 10-year plan with a $54 million wish list to address substance abuse in the county.

Wednesday’s budget work session was the first time County Manager Mike Ruffin and the commissioners had seen the proposal, which mental health staff finalized only last week. Ruffin will review it and present a funding recommendation to the board at the June 15 work session in which he’ll also reveal any revisions to his proposed schools budget.

The $516,300 request — a 7.2 percent increase for the Durham Center, which manages mental health, substance abuse and developmental disabilities services in the county — includes money to help recruit, train and assist substance abuse treatment providers, plus money for day treatment programs and supportive housing.

The N.C. Alcohol and Drug Council estimated the cost of substance abuse to Durham County at $250 million in 2003. The Durham Center used to provide substance abuse treatment directly, but state reforms compelled the center to contract with private providers instead. Wright said that led to some improvements, but that three of the six initial providers are no longer operating in Durham and the remainder can’t keep pace with demand.

Durham Center Chairman Doug Wright told the County Commissioners an estimated 19,000 people are addicted to alcohol or other drugs in Durham County. Of those, around 7,000 seek treatment, but only 2,500 or so are getting it.

Although substance abuse accounts for 23 percent of service provided by Durham Center-managed programs in the 2005 fiscal year, only 3 percent of allocated funding could be used to treat them, Center Director Ellen Holliman said. (more…)