Lawmakers to consider doubling funds to state-funded rehab centers

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - There are close to 140,000 drug addicts statewide, state health officials estimate, but only about two dozens treatment centers.

"We are taking care of only 10 to 11 percent of them," said state. Sen. Josh Green, chairman of the Senate Human Services Committee. "We have well over 100,000 individuals in our state that are getting very little care or support for their addiction."

Now, Green is trying to change that.

In the upcoming legislative session, he plans to introduce a bill that would drastically increase funding for the state's rehab programs. Under the measure, the programs would get $36 million, or about double what it they got this year.

Green is calling the funding increase an investment that will save taxpayers down the road.

"Once someone gets strung out on drugs, they end up turning to another drug," he said. "They can't have a job. They end up homeless. They end up at Queen's over and over again. It's a cycle that needs to be broken and the cycle will only get broken if we actually treat people."

The state Department of Health admits it needs help. Many of its mental health treatment programs were gutted during the recession.

"The needs are immense and we are focused not only on assuring appropriate hospital-based care but also rebuilding community based services," said Dr. James Westphal, psychiatry chief at the Adult Mental Health Division.

On top of the $36 million, the state could get matching money from the federal government.

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