Already decimated by Gov. William Donald Schaefer's budget cuts, the state's drug-abuse treatment program now is threatened with a loss of $22 million in federal funds, says the director of the state's alcohol- and drug-abuse administration.
"And, if that happens, we will have no treatment program," Rick Sampson, the state director, told the Governor's Drug and Alcohol Abuse Commission last week.
"But, we still have some work to do. We're negotiating with the feds and we're trying to find ways we ourselves can resolve the problem." He said the deadline for a state solution is June 30 of next year when the current fiscal year ends.
Maryland is not the only state in this predicament, he said. Ten other states are facing a potential loss of federal funding due to the depressed economy and their own state budget woes, he added.
Maryland is at risk for the federal ax because the state's federal block grant that pumps money into treatment programs requires the state to maintain a certain level of state funding over a two-year period.
"Even with a recent reinstatement of $4 1/2 million in state funds, we are still $2 million off the mark," Sampson explained. "So, we're trying to negotiate with the feds, but they can't give us a definite answer because this has never happened before."
State officials are negotiating with the Office of State Assistance, which is part of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration in Rockville.
"The governor is greatly concerned about the impact of these cuts, especially on the people affected by them," Sampson said.
If the state finds it cannot resolve the problem at its end, it has the option to apply to the federal agency for a waiver. If the waiver is denied, the agency could take all or some of the federal money, Sampson said.
Normally, Maryland gets $34 million from the state and $22 million from the federal government to operate its drug-abuse treatment program. The original state budget cut a few weeks ago was $12.3 million for the second half of the current fiscal year. Then there was the $4 1/2 million reinstatement from the state.
"This has left us with a $7.3 million cut, which when annualized becomes a $15 million cut of our total $34 million for the year," Sampson explained. "So, you can see what the $22 million federal loss would do to us."