The fourth and last in a series by Cliff Lewis
NewsLanc recently interviewed Rick Kastner, Executive Director of the Lancaster County Drug and Alcohol Commission (LCDAC). The LCDAC exists to “provide high quality prevention/education programs and treatment services for uninsured and low income citizens.” Our discussion with Kastner revealed the many challenges facing both Lancaster’s drug and alcohol addicted residents and the systems that seek to help them.
With the current state of the economy and its impact on State and Federal budgets, Kastner recently noticed a lot of discussion from other government agencies about funding cuts. This led him to take a look back at the LCDAC’s allocations from previous years. “As I suspected,” Kastner said, “we actually were being cut for the last seven or eight years.”
Below are the annual allocations received by the LCDAC since 2002. This list does not account for inflation:
These allocations are unusually low compared to other government funded human services, which, according to Kastner, typically receive around $10 million each year. As reported by NewsLanc in earlier portions of this series, the demand for the LCDAC’s services has only risen in recent years-despite this drop in support.
The people who rely on the LCDAC for rehab services are those “working poor” individuals who make too little to afford health care, and make too much to qualify for medical assistance (MA): They are stuck in the middle. But with a perpetually shrinking budget, the LCDAC has been unable to fully satisfy this growing need.
One way that the LCDAC has sought to help the working poor, in spite of limited funding, is to actually assist these individuals in applying for MA, which could effectively provide uncapped rehab assistance. Many of these cases, however, are a sad compromise, as Kastner elaborates: “So we can continue serving people essentially if they loose everything and they get on the welfare card. Which is not the incentive we want.”
Through the course of this series, we have seen how recent LCDAC under-funding has shortchanged Lancaster’s working poor; we have seen that much of this under-funding derives from an imbalanced emphasis on drug law enforcement and interdiction; and we have seen how successful rehab treatment in Lancaster County has, ironically, come to push even greater demand onto the LCDAC’s under-funded services. But a look at past budget allocations reveals that the pinch in resources has little to do with the current state of the economy.
For Kastner, this kind of under-funding has long been an unfortunate fact of life: “The cuts that are getting a lot of attention these days, and the shortfalls in State and Federal budgets are new to some other programs or systems, but is not new with the drug and alcohol field.”