Drug agency head appointed after 2-year delay

The Associated Press
Wednesday November 15, 2000

SACRAMENTO — Nearly two years after he took office, and days after voters approved a sweeping drug treatment initiative, Gov. Gray Davis appointed his first director of the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs. 

Meanwhile Tuesday, backers of the Proposition 36 initiative threatened to sue Davis if he doesn’t immediately release $60 million for drug treatment authorized by voters a week ago. 

Davis appointed Kathryn Jett to head the department and oversee implementation of the ballot measure, which requires the state to treat a projected 36,000 drug users each year instead of sending them to prison or jail. 

“He’d rather make the right choice than the hasty choice,” Davis spokeswoman Hilary McLean said in explaining the delay in making the appointment. 

Jett, 47, is director of the attorney general’s Crime and Violence Prevention Center, and chairs the executive committee of the nonpartisan Crime Prevention Coalition of America. Previously she was head of the Department of Health Services’ Office of Women’s Health. 

She’ll be paid $123,255 in her new job. The appointment is subject to state Senate confirmation. 

Drug treatment providers have complained that a series of acting directors left the agency rudderless. 

“There’s no voice for drug and alcohol programs speaking for the administration,” William Demers, president of the County Alcohol and Drug Program Administrators Association of California, said before Jett’s appointment. “Without a director, we’ve gotten no answers from anybody on anything from the administration.” 

That, and a shortfall in treatment funding, helped prompt Proposition 36, said campaign manager Dave Fratello of the California Campaign for New Drug Policies. 

“His inaction or disinterest, or some combination thereof, was why we felt we needed to go through the initiative, to kick start the process,” Fratello said. 

Davis’ Health and Human Services Agency made sure the department stayed on track without a permanent director, responded McLean. 

T. Maria Caudill, a department deputy director, said Davis showed his commitment by including $18 million for drug courts and $34 million for youth treatment and drug prevention programs in this year’s budget. 

The department’s budget has grown from $376.5 million to $526.8 million over the last two years, and from $347.7 million five years ago. 

However, treatment funding has barely increased under Davis, said Chuck Deutschman, who heads Contra Costa County’s treatment programs and preceded Demers as state association president. 

“If you control for inflation, if you control for changing demographics, it was really a decrease,” Deutschman said. 

In that regard, Fratello threatened legal action if Davis does not immediately release $60 million into a new Substance Abuse Treatment Trust Fund created by Proposition 36. 

The measure specifies that the $60 million should be released “upon passage of this act,” but McLean, Caudill and a spokesman for Davis’ Finance Department said they are reviewing the proposition’s requirements as part of their preparation of Davis’ 2001-02 budget proposals, which will be unveiled in January. 

“You know how this process works –he (Davis) doesn’t just write a check,” said McLean. 

County probation departments and treatment providers need the money now, not in six weeks, as they rush to prepare for the first drug offenders who will be sentenced to treatment programs in July, said Fratello.