How do we know if the Combat program is working? Where is the empirical data that says we should continue the tax? With the tax scheduled to expire in 2010, how are we to know if these funds are being spent in the most efficient and productive way? I went to the Combat website seeking answers and I couldn’t find any. There was no page that displayed the number of people who have been treated or their current status, there was no statistics of how treatment is working compared to incarceration, nor was there any page that discussed the breakdown of funds going to the three components.
Let me say that I support treatment over incarceration. I firmly believe that drug and alcohol abuse are community health problems and should be treated that way. Prohibition should have taught us one thing and that is people are going to do whatever it takes to escape life, especially if that life is filled with disappointments and tragedy. I support doing what we do for alcohol and other behaviors the society deems as destructive and that is to educate and try to minimize its negative effects on the society.
So with that being said, I don’t condone an open checkbook for its treatment or incarceration. The tax was passed as Kansas City was awash in the crack epidemic and was widely hailed as a comprehensive approach to the problems of drug addiction. We need to know how that money has been spent and where is the data that supports its continuance or its reorganization? Are there fewer drug addicts on the streets of Kansas City today than there was in 1989?
According to the website the funds were to be used for four major areas currently used by 80 different organizations. Those four areas are:
The tax generates funds that support more than 80 programs that fall under four major objectives:
• Prevent youth experimentation with drugs
• Provide treatment for non-violent offenders
• Assist law enforcement in the war on drugs
• Prosecute drug and drug related crimes
This was and still is a very ambitious mission. A mission that may be too broad in scope and complexity, but how do we know? I think it is time for the Combat commission to provide the city with comprehensive numbers of how the tax has been working and information on should we continue to allocate the funds as they are currently being allocated. Is there a policy of review to shift the funds to match changing and on-going priorities?
Recently, an advisory commission was appointed by the County Executive Mike Sanders, to review the program. I think this was an important first step in developing a strategy to better allocate and manage the 14-18 million dollars of tax revenue the program brings in.
The committee found that “programs and activities funded by COMBAT dollars are in fact making a difference” but that results could be better and should be more closely monitored. Prime Buzz
The commission says the programs are making a difference. What does that mean? The commission recommended that the program be restructured with a single-point of contact. Why has it taken 18 years to begin to correct issues that have plagued the program from the outset? The program in its current form is inefficient and is lacking direction. The majority of people in the community are not aware of its purpose or how well it is doing in carrying out that purpose. It is time to audit the program and correct the areas that need correcting. The important thing to remember here is that we are talking about lives and if we are not serving these lives in the best way then we need to make the necessary changes to do so.
As a recovered person myself, I know full-well the dangers of addiction so I have a deep and abiding concern for the Combat program and its success. We should insure that we are using those funds in the best possible way to impact the most lives. Due to our unequal criminal justice system the “war on drugs” has impacted the black community harder than any other. The Combat program was a way to help ease those inadequacies; we need to know that this is in fact the case. This program is important; we don’t want anyone to die in Kansas City of addiction when we could have provided help. We as a community support treatment for addicts, so let’s insure they get the best treatment possible. The ultimate authority of those tax dollars is the people and we should be involved in its decision making process.
Let’s reduce the bureaucracy and evaluate what is working and what isn’t. We can then tailor the program to meet the needs of not only the prosecution side of the program, but the treatment side as well.
False history gets made all day, any day,
the truth of the new is never on the news – Adrienne Rich