Gov. Mike Dunleavy signed capital bill SB2002 into law on Thursday, restoring more than $100 million to the state budget. However, the governor also vetoed more than $34 million in line items, cutting funds to homeless services and addiction treatment, among other programs.
Dunleavy’s cuts included $10 million intended for substance abuse treatment facilities around the state, and $3.6 million from the Homeless Assistance Program.
“The $10 million grant for a statewide addiction treatment facility, which was vetoed in yesterday’s capital budget, is only one approach that requires further research, analysis and vetting to understand true costs and specific project proposals,” Dunleavy said in a statement on Friday. “Unfortunately, the $10 million in state funding was not attached to specific plans or proposals, nor was it requested to this administration by a specific organization or state agency.”
However, the directors of Kodiak nonprofit organizations and addiction treatment programs said the cuts may end up hurting the effort to curb substance abuse in the community.
Brother Francis Shelter Executive Director Monte Hawver said on Monday that signing SB2002 has a positive effect on Kodiak’s homeless shelter, noting that the bill added back dollars previously vetoed by the governor, but that the program still stands to lose significant funding.
“It appears that a substantial portion of that funding will be reinstated, but all in all, we’ll still have $77,000 in cuts from the state budget,” Hawver said.
The Community Initiatives Program, which would have provided the shelter with $30,000, was line-itemed out. Additionally, the shelter still stands to lose $46,000 because of the decrease in the Homeless Assistance Program funding.
According to Hawver, cuts to Medicaid funding stand to have the largest impact on Kodiak residents dealing with addiction disorders.
“Every time Medicaid is cut, it has a direct effect on Kodiak because people with addiction disorders aren’t employed and the organizations that serve them rely on Medicaid for their reimbursement. With Medicaid being cut, they will obviously have less money to spend,” Hawver said.
Dunleavy’s June 28 line-item vetoes to the state operating budget cut more than $50 million in Medicaid funding.
According to Kodiak Area Mentor Program President Jonathan Strong, KAMP does not stand to lose funds directly because of state cuts, but limited state funding will still affect its ability to assist Kodiak residents dealing with substance abuse.
KAMP is a nonprofit volunteer-based organization that mentors and supports Kodiak residents in need of treatment for substance abuse. Strong said that KAMP relies on funds from the city of Kodiak, the Kodiak Island Borough and local nonprofit groups in order to provide their services, which include a weekly community support group.
They also assist individuals dealing with substance abuse in accessing treatment programs in Kodiak, other parts of Alaska and in the Lower 48. Strong said that robust treatment programs are key to mitigating addiction.
“If they can’t access that treatment quickly, we may never get another chance. And that’s where I can really see a big impact in what we do,” he said.
KAMP works with the Kodiak Area Native Association, Kodiak Community Health Center and Providence Kodiak Island Counseling Center, which provide outpatient substance abuse treatment programs and referrals to inpatient treatment off-island.
“If the amount of service they can provide is less, and someone can’t get assessment for two weeks, that person who is ready at that moment, the next moment they’re gone. They’re out. They’re using again. Maybe I’ll see them in a year, when they’re ready again. Or I’ll see them in jail. Or I’ll see them in the streets. Or dead,” Strong said.
Director of Behavioral Health at KCHC, Heidi Barrett-McNerney, said that most of their funding comes from the federal government, but the effects of the state budget cuts will still trickle down to Kodiak.
“It’s really hard to get people into residential treatment, and I think this is just going to make it more difficult,” Barrett-McNerney said. “The facilities we have already are really at maximum and this just makes it more difficult. The money that has already been there is going to be gone. As we all know, there’s an increasing need.”
KCHC’s program provides brief interventions that entail shorter time frames and a limited number of sessions. When necessary, KCHC refers patients to KANA’s more intensive treatment program, or to inpatient treatment facilities off the island. According to Barrett-McNerney, KCHC refers 25% of their patients for further care.
Barrett-McNerney added that she sees a clear connection between homelessness and addiction treatment. The majority of Kodiak residents with opioid or heroin addictions are homeless, she said.
“If you’re spending the majority of your time looking for and/or doing drugs, you don’t have time for a job, and then it’s very hard to maintain a residence,” she said.
She added that while Kodiak doesn’t necessarily need an inpatient treatment facility, the community would benefit from having a day treatment program with accompanying housing, and right now, money stands in the way.
“I really feel that it’s going to affect all of us eventually, because it’s going to increase the very vulnerable population,” she said.