Providing drug and alcohol treatment to all of the highest-risk offenders would have saved Oregon crime victims and taxpayers an estimated $21.6 million from 2008 to 2011, a new state audit released Tuesday found.
“The most effective way to reduce crime and keep our communities safe is to invest in proven treatment programs,” Secretary of State Kate Brown said. “The good news is that the Affordable Care Act will provide additional money, allowing Oregon to increase drug and alcohol treatment for people leaving prison.”
According to one report, substance abuse in Oregon caused approximately $5.9 billion in direct economic costs in 2006. Law enforcement costs were about $656 million of the total.
Research has found that addressing the treatment needs of offenders is critical to reducing crime and other societal ills caused by substance abuse. Studies also show the importance of treating offenders with the highest-risk of committing new crimes.
As of December, 70 percent of Oregon's incarcerated offenders had some level of substance abuse problem.
Currently, counties bear most of the cost of treating former prison inmates. Under the expansion of Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act, released offenders not previously eligible for Medicaid may qualify for treatment paid with 90% federal funds and 10% state funds.
Brown said this will give state government an excellent opportunity to work with counties to provide services to high-risk offenders who are currently not getting treatment. The expansion goes into effect in January.
“Substance abuse takes an enormous toll on our communities," Brown said. "This audit makes the connection between next year’s expanded Medicaid coverage and county needs for more treatment funding.”
“Counties will save general funds, more released offenders will get treatment and our communities will avoid more of the costs and heartache of an offender’s continued criminal involvement.”
A copy of the audit is available online at www.sos.state.or.us/audits/.