OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma spent nearly 12 percent of its state budget in 2005 on costs connected to substance abuse and addiction, according to a national study released on Thursday.
But Oklahoma spent less than 1 percent of its budget during the same year on substance abuse prevention, treatment and research, according to the study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University in New York.
The three-year analysis on public spending is based on 2005 data, the most recent available for the study, but researchers say there has been little change since that time in how state resources are allocated.
Of every state dollar Oklahoma spent on substance abuse and addiction, including smoking, in 2005, 97 cents went toward corrections, the judicial system, child welfare and other related costs, the study shows. Only 3 cents in Oklahoma went toward prevention and treatment, according to the report.
"In these economic times, such upside-down-cake public policy is unconscionable," said Joseph Califano, Jr., CASA's founder and chairman. "In the face of evidence that prevention programs aimed at smoking, illegal and prescription drug abuse, and underage and excessive adult drinking can be effective, and that many treatment programs have outcomes more favorable than many cancer protocols, our current spending patterns are misguided.
"It is past time for this fiscal and human waste to end."
Among the key findings of the study is that if substance abuse and addiction were its own state budget category, it would rank second only behind spending on elementary and secondary education.
Terri White, commissioner of Oklahoma's Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, said that while she can't confirm the numbers in the CASA report, she said there is clear evidence that substance abuse treatment can save the state money in the long run.
"This is really highlighting for us that we will have better outcomes for much less investment and less cost if you invest in prevention and treatment than if you continue to clean up the wreckage of these diseases," White said.
White said drug and alcohol addiction is a disease of the brain that is treatable.
"The science is very clear," White said. "We can choose to ignore the scientific evidence, but as long as we do that we're going to continue to pay infinitely more for the wreckage and see Oklahoma families torn apart than if we would treat this like the disease that it is."
White, who also serves as Gov. Brad Henry's cabinet secretary of health, said her agency this year received state funding of about $199 million, a 2 percent budget cut over last year's budget.