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Activists Say State Stalling on Rehab Funds

Prop. 36: Sponsors of the initiative to reduce incarceration of drug users say the administration is slow to enact it. A Davis aide denies the charge.

November 15, 2000|JENIFER WARREN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO — Sponsors of a ballot initiative requiring treatment rather than incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders complained Tuesday that Davis administration officials are moving too slowly in implementing the measure.

Proposition 36, approved last week by 61% of California voters, requires the state to spend an initial $60 million to expand drug treatment slots for offenders sentenced under the new law.

So far, however, no money has been made available, and initiative backers say precious time is being lost.

"We think it's critical that treatment capacity be increased as soon as possible to meet this new need," said Bill Zimmerman, manager of the campaign for Proposition 36. "We don't think this can wait until next year."

Zimmerman said the California Constitution specifies that a ballot measure takes effect the day after it is approved by voters. Therefore, he said, the $60 million should have been transferred into a new Substance Abuse Treatment Trust Fund last Wednesday. "Instead, we have no evidence any steps have been taken," Zimmerman said.

On Wednesday, Zimmerman sent a letter to Gov. Gray Davis and state Finance Director Tim Gage, outlining the concerns and asking that the administration "immediately correct this shortcoming."

Hilary McLean, a spokeswoman for the governor, said the letter had yet been received. "All I can say at this point is we're looking at the issues they have raised and we will make sure we're in compliance," she said.

Under Proposition 36, the diversion of drug possession offenders away from jail and into counseling will not begin until July 1. But authors of the measure directed that $60 million be allocated immediately to expand the thin lineup of drug treatment facilities now available.

The $60 million will be transferred from the state's general fund to the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, which in turn will parcel it out to counties according to a formula based partly on drug arrests.

In a related development, Davis' new director of alcohol and drug programs began work this week, filling a position that had been vacant more than a year.

Director Kathryn Jett, 47, will be the state's key player in carrying out Proposition 36. She formerly was director of the attorney general's Crime and Violence Prevention Center. Her appointment still requires confirmation by the state Senate.

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