Blueprint for the States: Policies to Improve the Ways States Organize and Deliver Alcohol and Drug Prevention and Treatment

States spend approximately thirteen percent of their budgets on the consequences of drugs and alcohol. Although states have the power and authority to significantly reduce these costs through prevention and treatment, few states have an effective strategy for action that is led by the governor and legislative leadership. Without state strategies to improve current organization and delivery systems, progress in the treatment and prevention of alcohol and drug problems is nearly impossible. 

To address this, Join Together, a group allied with the NASW, asked a bi-partisan leadership panel to hear testimony from national experts, and to make recommendations for improvements in the state systems.

State Governments, Leaders Hold the Keys

Michael Dukakis, leader of the Blueprint for the States panel, said, "One thing that struck me throughout our work was the fact that a lot of the interest and enthusiasm that we saw in the 1980s seems to have evaporated... interest has moved on to other things, and the states are not doing the job we ought to be doing in this area....”

"I believe that prevention and education have to be at the top of the state priority list, beginning in the early elementary grades," added Dukakis. "I saw very little evidence in our hearings that that is happening in many states across the country."

Some of the recommendations are that states:

  • develop a statewide strategy that includes all agencies affected by drug and alcohol problems
  • increase accountability for all state agencies working on issues related to addiction
  • educate lawmakers about the costs of alcohol and other drug addiction to improve their participation in policymaking
  • train judges to address alcohol and other drug use among defendants and improve coordination with treatment services
  • create a state alcohol and other drug policy advisory board, answerable to the governor and lawmakers, that includes representatives from the recovering community and civic leaders
  • use their certification and licensing powers to establish minimum skill sets for addiction counselors and managers, improve treatment program capabilities, and set salary and payment rates "at levels that will attract and retain qualified providers."

Panel members also called for each state to vest responsibility for implementing their statewide alcohol and other drug strategies in an entity "at the highest possible level in state government," and that reports directly to the governor.

The Blueprint for the States policy panel gathered public testimony during two 2006 public hearings, in Washington, D.C., and Santa Fe, N.M., as well as electronic submissions. This report may be of great interest to social workers and their colleagues interested in tackling the challenges presented by drugs and alcohol misuse.

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