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House health committee tables adult drug court bill

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A bill that would transfer the funding source of professional services rendered by adult drug courts is tabled until there are some answers on the financial implications.  

Members of the House Committee on Health and Human Resources discussed H.B. 2767 in their March 18 meeting. The bill proposes that when a court refers a drug offender to a drug court program, the DHHR would pay for the professional services.

These professional services include "treatment, therapy, counseling, evaluation, report preparation, consultation and preparation of expert testimony."

Delegate Patrick Lane, R-Kanawha, pointed out that the cost of the drug court program is 100 percent funded by the state Supreme Court.

Officials estimate the projected cost for drug courts in 2014 would be $1.4 million.

The bill would not make programmatic changes to the drug court program — merely change the funding source, said Mike Lacy, director of probation service.

Lane asked Lacy the reason for shifting the cost.

Lacy explained the court wanted to free up that money so it could expand the courts into other areas of the state. He mentioned that a statewide study found that adult drug courts had a low recidivism rate at 9.4 percent and cost much less than incarceration.

Lacy said with the $1.4 million freed from the court's budget, the court could create five or possibly six additional drug courts.

Lane asked how the drug court program compares to the DHHR's rehabilitation or treatment programs regarding success and recidivism rates.

Lacy answered that the drug court program has been very successful, noting he did not know if the DHHR has conducted a study to determine the success rates of these programs.

The bill also would require the DHHR to set the fee schedule for the services, which would be in accordance with the Medicaid rate.

However, concerns were raised whether the court had conducted an analysis to see what levels the courts were currently paying and whether there would be a cut off point when a certain expenditure is reached.

Lacy explained the court had come up with a fee schedule for treatment reimbursements and answered that he believed they are already paying the Medicaid rate.

However, Mary Aldred Crouch, a licensed clinical social worker, said the DHHR may not have the money to support the financial shift.

"The only thing I can tell you is the federal government is cutting, not adding," she said. "The money we have got is spoken for and then some."

However, Crouch said she could only speak to the clinical side and fiscal issues were not in her arena.

Members then voted to table the bill until the fiscal questions are answered.