Skip to main content
Iowa Attorney General
Main Content

December 23, 2003

Miller: Fund Drug Treatment to Fight Meth and Cut Crime

DES MOINES.   Attorney General Tom Miller today challenged the Legislature to increase funding for drug treatment. "It's the most important thing we can do now to stem the state's methamphetamine problem and fight all drug-related crime," he said.

Miller proposed $29 million of new spending for drug treatment and prevention. "There is an overwhelming linkage between drugs and crime," he said. "The number one thing we can do to fight crime is fight drugs, and the number one thing we can do to fight drugs is to do a better job with drug treatment. This is a crucial and cost-effective public safety measure."

This is the second year that Miller has offered a major proposal to strengthen drug treatment and cut crime. "I understand it is hard to sell any spending increase when we have serious state budget problems, but this program will pay for itself in reduced crime and lower costs for incarceration, health care and human services," he said.

"I am making a long-term commitment to this issue. We've got to get it done," Miller said.

"If it were my choice, I'd fund this project with part of a cigarette tax increase. Just 15 cents per pack would do it. But it's the Legislature's prerogative to decide how to fund it," he said.

Art Schut, president and CEO of "MECCA" Substance Abuse Services in Iowa City, joined Miller at a news conference Tuesday to announce the proposal.

Attorney General Tom Miller Proposes Expanded Drug Treatment to Cut Crime.

"Drug treatment reduces crime more than any other single thing we can do," Miller said. "It's proven to succeed and pay off." He cited a federal study showing that various criminal activity declined sharply among those who completed treatment: selling drugs dropped 78%, shoplifting declined almost 82%, arrests for drug possession dropped 51%, and arrests for any crime dropped 64%. Research by the University of Iowa found that clients reporting "1-3 arrests" decreased by 51% after treatment, and clients reporting "no arrests" increased by 51%.

Miller said the drug treatment proposal is especially important for tackling Iowa's burgeoning methamphetamine problem. "Iowa risks earning an unflattering reputation as one of the meth capitals of the nation. That would damage our image as a clean, healthy state and be terrible for Iowa's growth and economic development. It would be shameful for Iowa to become known as a 'meth capital' of the nation, but we face that risk unless we are willing to do some things differently," he said.

"We need a three-prong approach to deal with drugs and crime: prosecution, prevention, and treatment," Miller said. "Overall, Iowa is doing a good job with prosecution, and a pretty good job with prevention, but we must do much more work on treatment." He said most law enforcement officers and prosecutors agree that prosecution alone will not solve the drug-and-crime problem.

"Tough prosecution is very important," Miller said, "but it only works in conjunction with effective drug and alcohol treatment. Increasing the money available for substance abuse treatment will reduce crime and make Iowans safer." Miller said about four out of five persons in prison have a substance abuse problem. One-third of state prison inmates reported being under the influence of drugs at the time of their offense, according to a federal study.

"The top goal of the proposal is public safety," Miller said, "but it also will help Iowa's economy and workforce. All Iowans benefit from having more productive employees. We must be able to offer a positive alternative to drugs, including a decent job."

The economic benefits of substance abuse are much greater than its costs, Miller said. "Drug treatment saves money. Studies show that a dollar spent on drug treatment pays a $4-7 return, mostly in health care savings and increased productivity."

Miller said it was important not to stigmatize addiction. "We need to understand that substance abuse addiction is a disease and not just a result of personal weakness and moral failing," he said. "Addiction is an ongoing health problem that is not easy to cure." He said 6.7 million Americans are affected by drug addiction and 13.8 million by alcoholism -- about equivalent to the number of Americans affected by heart disease (21 million).

Click here for "White Paper" on Attorney General Miller's Drug Treatment Proposals.


Details of Attorney General Miller's Drug Treatment Proposal:

Estimated Funding Outline:

Community Based Treatment $10 million

Corrections Treatment $5 million

Drug Courts $3 million

Diversion Programs $1 million

Jail Programs $4 million

Knoxville Program $4 million

State Training Schools $390,000

Prevention Grants. $2 million

Total $29.39 million

A Community-based Treatment. (Estimated $10 million increase)

The State Capacities Work Group in 2001 was charged with determining drug treatment capacity in the state and estimating the costs for increased capacity. The most effective scenario recommended by the group called for an increase in both the number of beds and the length of stay. The increased cost for that maximum scenario was $13.9 million. We believe that the current system could not absorb that much increase in a single year because of workforce issues; thus, we recommend a $10 million in the first year, $10 million in the second, and $15 million by the third year.

B Prison / Corrections Treatment. (Estimated $5 million increase)

The current estimated expenditure for licensed substance abuse treatment in Iowa prisons is $4.17 million. This provides "residential" level of treatment for about 900 offenders and "outpatient" level of care for about 517 offenders. A $9 million annual budget ($5 million increase) targeted for licensed substance abuse treatment could adequately address the need for treatment within the prisons. An additional $300,000 should be used to reinstate a centralized substance abuse treatment needs assessment process at the Oakdale reception center.

C Adult and Juvenile Drug Courts. (Estimated $3 million)

Drug Courts for adults, juveniles, or both exist in Des Moines, Sioux City, Marshalltown, Mason City, and in the Fourth Judicial District. The programs are funded primarily through federal grants and are proving to be effective. The state should ensure their continuation and expansion. The Iowa Department of Public Health estimates that placing drug courts to serve 40 adults and 40 juveniles in each of Iowa's eight judicial districts would cost $2.92 million.

Drug Courts are one of the most effective things we can do because they are at the intersection of the criminal justice system and the treatment system. The Court serves as a particularly effective incentive for requiring treatment. Defendants hear the message that failure to comply will result in sanctions. Because of this feature, judicial cooperation is crucial to success. The Polk County Juvenile Drug Court has a 75% graduation rate and few referrals back to juvenile court the following year. The program costs as little as $14 per day.

D Diversion to Treatment Pilot Projects. (Estimated $1 million)

The idea of this program is to use a screening tool to identify treatment-ready offenders immediately after arrest so that diversion to treatment occurs prior to the expenditure of legal and correctional resources. Eligible offenders accused of non-violent drug and property crimes would plead guilty enabling them to go to the front of the line for full evaluation, treatment, and CBC supervision.

There are two keys to success: first, the use of a treatment-eligibility screening tool by pre-trial release interviewers; and second, priorities set by the prosecutors, public defenders, judges, DCS, and treatment programs to "fast-track" the cases.

E Jail-based Treatment Programs. (Estimated $4 million)

The programs that provide treatment within the jail setting are effective and reliable in part because of the benefits of treating a confined population. This program is currently being implemented in Polk, Woodbury and Scott Counties and has potential for other larger counties. The Polk County program budget is $400,000 and serves 30-40 men and 10 women. Placing such a program in ten of the larger Iowa counties would cost $4 million.

F Knoxville Secure Drug Treatment Program for Probationers. (Estimated $4 million)

This funding would establish a secure drug treatment program at Knoxville for probationers who also have a substance abuse problem. The program would provide specialized treatment in a secure setting without increasing demands on the prison system.

G State Training Schools. (Estimated $390,000 increase)

This funding would restore drug treatment programs at the state's two juvenile institutions. The 15-year-old drug treatment program was discontinued because of state budget cuts in 2001. Since then, drug treatment has been available to only a small number of residents. To restore funding to prior levels, the boys training school at Eldora would receive $270,000, and the Iowa Juvenile Home at Toledo would receive $120,000. Eighty-one percent of the youth entering the State Training School arrive with a substance abuse problem.

H Statewide Comprehensive Prevention Programming Grants. (Estimated $2 million increase)

Additional funding for the Iowa Department of Public Health's Statewide Comprehensive Programming Grant Program will provide an important complement to the increased emphasis on treatment. Under this program, 23 grantees provide drug prevention services to all 99 Iowa counties on a per-capita basis. The programs engage in local alcohol and drug prevention activities, such as working to reduce college binge drinking habits, or strengthening families to discourage the use of alcohol and drugs. Current state and federal funding for the program is $3.4 million.


« Back

Quick Exit
© 2022 State of Iowa Office of the Attorney General. All rights reserved.