Slashing $3.3 million from the state's Drug and Alcohol Abuse Administration will not hurt any existing treatment programs but would doom plans to restore some programs that were eliminated last year, the agency's director said yesterday.
"None of you is losing a service," Director Howard R. Sampson said at a budget briefing for about 100 people who administer drug-treatment programs across the state. The meeting was held at the Spring Grove Hospital Center in Catonsville.
The cuts would mean the end of plans to restore funding for four detoxification programs that are run independently of hospitals; for the state prisons, which once ran a pre-release counseling program for drug addicts; and for a residential treatment center in Southern Maryland.
These were among the programs that fell victim in last year's round of budget cuts.
Mr. Sampson conceded that many addicts could get shut out of the treatment programs as a result of separate plans to terminate Medicaid coverage that is currently available to about 30,000 indigent and mostly single adults. Of these, several hundred are addicts who are trying to kick their habits with the help of programs.
Dr. Robert Brooner, director of an outpatient treatment program at the Francis Scott Key Medical Center in Baltimore, said 47 of the 280 addicts treated at his center are covered by the part of the Medicaid program that is to be reduced. While he vowed not to cut loose these patients, he said the program will have to reduce its rolls accordingly by rejecting similar patients in the future.
He said the loss of Medicaid revenue will probably force him to eliminate some people from the staff. And that, in turn, would force him to scale down the program even further -- to perhaps 210 patients.
"This is the worst time to try to reduce services," Dr. Brooner said, citing the growing drug problem and the rapid spread of the AIDS virus among intravenous drug users.
The planned cuts are part of the state's furious efforts to close its $450 million revenue shortfall. The state has already announced huge reductions in aid to local governments as well as to Medicaid recipients.