As many as seven of every 10 American men arrested for serious crimes test positive for drugs, according to a U.S. Justice Department survey of the nation's largest cities. That there is a link between drug use and criminal activity is not new. That it is so pervasive warrants major new federal funding and leadership for drug-treatment and -prevention programs.
As Congress measures it, President Reagan cut federal support for state and local drug-treatment programs by 40% during his first six years in office--even as the magnitude of the drug problem, especially cocaine abuse, increased dramatically. The federal cuts created months-long backlogs at clinics that were willing to treat people who had no health insurance, and also forced many other programs to close their doors.
Reagan went along when Congress passed a massive anti-drug bill in 1986, but he made no lasting commitment. The additional funding did not bring services back to the level provided before he took office. Moreover, the new money, doled out locally last summer, was regarded as a one-time-only allocation. Meanwhile, Reagan has again proposed deep cuts for drug-treatment and -prevention programs in his 1988 budget.
New federal cuts in the block grants allocated to the states will hurt local efforts. In Los Angeles, heroin addicts and intravenous drug users who seek treatment wait as long as six months to get into one of 686 beds provided for people who have no way of paying for expensive private treatment. And that includes new beds funded with the one-time-only federal money. The need is much, much greater.