DENVER - Gov. Bill Ritter has promised not to cut funds for detox and drug treatment, even though a $1.4 million hole opened in that program last week.Ritter's August budget cuts originally sought to reduce grants for police overtime for drunken driving patrols, in order to avoid cuts to drug and alcohol treatment.
But a backlash from police and Republican lawmakers led Ritter to dump the DUI plan last week. So a hole remains in the substance abuse budget, but the governor has committed to no cuts in both the DUI and substance-abuse programs, said Ritter spokesman Evan Dreyer.
"We now need to go maintain the funding for both, so there's no impact," Dreyer said.
Ritter's budget office has to come up with $1.4 million in cuts to some other program before Halloween, when the next "Heat Is On" DUI campaign is scheduled.
The state government contracts with local groups such as Southwest Colorado Mental Health Center for both short-term detox and long-term addiction counseling. Statewide, the Legislature has set aside $29 million for the contracts.
Bern Heath, director of the Southwest Colorado center bas-ed in Durango, said he does not know for sure what the state government has in mind, but he and his staff are "nervous" about the money they will have. Years ago, the state was supposed to pay for most of the detox and treatment costs, but now it pays only around half, Heath said.
Meanwhile, local partners for the Crossroads detox center in Durango are pressed because of falling tax revenue, Heath said.
Heath argued against funding the DUI campaign by cutting treatment programs.
"They prevent significant law-enforcement costs. So we're watching very carefully," Heath said.
About 140 people work for Southwest Colorado Mental Health Center in the five-county region. The center avoided a budget disaster because of the stimulus bill Congress passed this year, Heath said.
"We would have lost a large number of positions had the state not received those stimulus dollars," he said.
But the stimulus money runs out next year.
The $1.4 million gap that opened last week is only a sliver of the $320 million Ritter has ordered cut out of the 2009-10 budget to cope with plummeting tax revenues. An updated budget forecast is expected in two weeks, and if the news is bad, further cuts would be needed.