The Idaho legislature's Office of Performance Evaluations had some harsh criticisms of state efforts to address substance abuse, according a report released last week. The OPE found that the efforts of the Department of Health and Welfare, Correction, Juvenile Corrections, Education and the Idaho court system are "fragmented, in spite of Idaho Code requiring a comprehensive and integrated system." The report also charged the departments with significant shortcomings in planning, implementation and financial oversight of substance abuse prevention and treatment programs.
Now the agencies singled out by the report are beginning to respond. Teresa Jones, Administrative Support Manager for the Idaho Department of Correction (DoC), said that her agency has "little mention in the review" but admits, "staffing has been an issue for us for quite some time in terms of the amount of programs we can offer." She said the DoC "does support an independent commission to make recommendations to provide for an integrated, comprehensive system for substance abuse treatment." Jones also pointed out that the DoC is making efforts toward better substance abuse treatment, including hosting a "Safe Communities" meeting and survey of 500 participants who expressed "overwhelming support for treatment" for offenders in the corrections system. "Of those asked, 93 percent support community-based drug treatment." In response to another key question, "Do you support providing treatment for offenders during incarceration?" 94 percent surveyed answered affirmatively.
"Among those who came to community meetings for education on corrections issues ,there was overwhelming support for this concept of treatment, and overwhelming understanding of the need for that."
The OPE will meet again on Wednesday, January 11, in the East Conference Room of the JR Williams Office Building on State Street, at 3:15 p.m. Chaired by Rep. Margaret Henbest, the meeting will not accept public testimony, but agency officials will respond to questions. Access the full report and its Executive Summary at www.legislature.idaho.gov/ope/publications/reports/r0504.htm.