In keeping with President Biden’s push to approve “evidence-based” policies to help combat the worsening US drug overdose crisis (overdoses jumped to a new annual record last year according to data from the CDC) – not to mention the explosion of crime (both petty and violent) and homelessness that have rendered San Francisco almost unlivable for families – Democratic lawmakers in California have devised a new plan that we’d like to call “cash for junkies”.
The same political party that embraced housing the homeless in expensive hotel rooms has proposed using public money to pay drug addicts to stay in treatment, and away from the growing street encampments.
Senate Bill 110 would make “contingency management,” a therapy centered around positive reinforcement, a legal form of treatment in California eligible for payment by Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program. In other words, addicts will be given “incentives” to attend treatment, including what are essentially bribes.
The program will be targeted specifically at meth abusers, one of the fastest-growing contingents of California’s addict population (since all the opioid users are dying from the fentanyl poisoning the drug supply).
“Contingency management has proven to be the most effective method of treatment for methamphetamine addiction, and is frequently used as a treatment program by the Veterans Affairs Administration,” Weiner’s office said in a news release. “This intervention program gives those struggling with substance use disorder financial rewards if they enter substance use treatment programs, stay in the program, and get and remain sober. This positive reinforcement helps people reduce and even fully stop substance use.”
An analysis of the legislation, according to media reports, estimated the annual cost for 1K participants would be $179K. In theory, lifting Californians out of addiction would save the state money in other areas (for example, the burgeoning homeless encampments in San Francisco, populated by individuals with mental health and substance abuse issues). And according to one Democratic legislature, “contingency management” (academic-speak for doling out cash to addicts) has “proven to be the most effective treatment for methamphetamine addiction.”
Generally speaking, drug-abuse treatment in general has very low rates of success. No matter the exact nature of their treatment, most addicts who enter treatment don’t management to stay sober for long. Even after a stay at a pricey rehab, the vast majority of addicts will relapse. What’s more, the vast majority of addicts see money – especially free money that they didn’t need to work to earn – as a potential trigger.
Additionally, there are federal laws that prohibit bribing people for seeking medical treatment (not that California has any problem with flouting federal law).
While a similar bill failed to gain traction last year, the new iteration is scheduled for consideration in the Assembly Health Committee on July 13 after receiving unanimous support in the state Senate.
The key to success, if passed, will lie in not drug testing addicts, making it impossible to determine whether the money they’re receiving is being spent on food and shelter…or just more meth.