Addressing Addiction: Improving & Integrating California’s Substance Abuse Treatment System

Report #190, March 2008


In this report, the Commission urges the state to provide more attention and oversight to substance abuse treatment, and calls for reforms that would improve the treatment system and help avoid costs in the health, human service and corrections systems.

During its review, the Commission found that when done right treatment is a cost effective way to improve public health and safety, keep families whole, reduce demand on the programs that result from addiction and reduce costs related to those programs. California, however, lacks a coherent substance abuse treatment system that integrates the state’s health care, foster care and corrections systems. Counties use widely divergent approaches to treatment with little oversight or accountability for results. The Commission also found that the state spends more than $1 billion annually on substance abuse treatment and billions more on the consequences of failing to treat addiction. The Commission found transforming the state’s substance abuse treatment system and focusing on improved outcomes and accountability could help the state cut costs associated with addiction that burden so many of the state’s systems.

The Commission recommends a new treatment system model that emphasizes screening for signs of alcohol and drug abuse and early intervention strategies. The Commission also recommends employing evidence-based strategies to treat addiction, linking state funding with improved outcomes, and improving the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act, or Proposition 36, by increasing the use of proven practices such as drug court models.