Massachusetts Governor Seeks Increase in Treatment Funding

Facing threats of federal funding being cut, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is pushing for a 40-percent increase in state drug-treatment spending, the Boston Globe reported May 21.

Originally, Romney had proposed a $2 million cut to the state’s addiction budget. He changed his position when U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson threatened to cut federal aid for treating drug users.

Steady financial support for local addiction programs is required of states that receive grants from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Thompson said the forfeiture of funds was a penalty for the state’s three straight years of cuts in addiction services.

Romney’s new request would increase the budget of the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services from $33.7 million to $47.1 million.

“What this will hopefully do is help us avoid any kind of reduction in the federal grant,” said Public Health Commissioner Christine Ferguson. “The governor has been really passionate about making sure we don’t lose any federal funds.”

Treatment advocates and top legislators were pleased about the proposed increase. “The feds finally played hardball, and Commissioner Ferguson realized she wasn’t going to get the money,” said Elizabeth Funk, president of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Corporations of Massachusetts Inc, a 100-member trade association. “Now, the House and the Senate and the administration appear to be in the same place in their understanding of the problem and wanting to fix it.”