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The ongoing California budget crisis has put huge strains on large sectors of the economy as businesses and people are in financial trouble.  In particular it is putting a huge strain on those entities who rely on state money to provide various services to the populations. 

The Vanguard has learned that several local Drug Treatment Facilities have stopped receiving payments going back to March of 2010.  As a result, while they are not closing their doors, they are laying off staff members and releasing patients from their facilities.

One that has been particularly hard hit is the Cache Creek Lodge treatment facility located in Woodland.  That facility provides residential long-term treatment and outpatient care to a variety of women with substance abuse and mental health problems.  Cache Creek Lodge has operated since 1974 as a non-profit treatment program.

The Vanguard spoke on Friday with John Madsen, director of the facility who laid out the issue with a good degree of frankness.  While he said they not closing down, they are teetering on the brink.  Over the last few years, the facility due to the loss of some contracts and changes in the way treatment money is allocated has been force to work more with the department of corrections.

As a result of those changes they have two different contracts.  One where they have served clients from West Care of California.  As Mr. Madsen explained, those clients typically come from substance abuse programs within the prison system.  Upon release they come out and go to programs like the one they run where they will do some residential treatment and then transition towards an outpatient program.  “That contract we haven’t been paid for since March,” he told the Vanguard.

“We received a letter from them a few weeks ago indicating that they are not being paid by the Department of Corrections and so therefore would not be paying us,” Mr. Madsen continued.  “They are already behind a couple of months.  We, like the Wayfarer and Walters House here in Woodland, had to discharge all of the West Care clients from our residential program and outpatient program.”

In addition to the West Care contract, they have a 25-bed contract from the Department of Corrections Directly.  It is a RMSC program, a regional multi-service center.  The contract was for at-risk and homeless parolees.  These are people deemed at-risk of re-offending or otherwise in danger of being incarcerated again all with substance abuse issues. 

These patients would do ninety of residential treatment and during the next ninety days they would begin working for employment and would save about 75% of their income in a trust account.  After six months they would have the opportunity to extend treatment for up to six months, enabling them to continue to work, save money, and do additional treatment.  This is the fifth year of that contract, but they also have not paid since March.

“We haven’t been paid for that,” Mr. Madsen said, “We informed both of these agencies that as of Tuesday [August 24] that we would be unable to continue to serve their clients because we haven’t been paid.  They still were unable to come up with any funding.”

The problem in both cases is the fact that the state has not passed a budget.  Mr. Madsen told the Vanguard that they still have about ten clients in treatment at this time.  “We are going to continue to try to keep our doors open until the budget gets passed,” he said.  “Hopefully we can get back to a full status.  We have 39 beds in this facility and currently 29 of them are empty.”

The Vanguard briefly exchanged text messages with Assemblymember Mariko Yamada who said that she was “painfully aware” of this problem.

In statement from Assemblymember Yamada she said, “I am keenly aware of the pain resulting from the perennial budget standoff in Sacramento.  Closing the doors on vulnerable clients and laying off caring staff is devastating and creates costlier demands on first responders and emergency rooms.”

She continued, “People are literally dying for a budget.  We must act deliberately and quickly to avoid further harm to our district and all Californians.  I hope our legislative leaders and the Governor are listening.”

The question of course is what is happening to those people released from these treatment facilities.  Mr. Madsen told the Vanguard that for the RMSC contract, with the twenty five beds, “We made contact with family members and worked with the parole agents and said these are the places that they have to go.”

He continued, “Two of them went to the Yolo Wayfarer Mission and the rest went back to various family and friends homes to try to find employment and continue to try to make it.  They would have the first opportunity to come back into treatment upon them rendering payment and being able to get back to normal status.”

“This all hinges at this point on the state budget being and then monies actually being doled out,” he reiterated.

The people released are now at grave risk for relapse and other problems.  “Some of them were here longer than others,” Mr. Madsen said, “The ones that were here a little longer, they may have a better shot at things having gathered some tools for recovery.  However, maybe some of the ones that were here a shorter length of time, maybe not so much.”

“It’s a crapshoot at this point for any of them,” Mr. Madsen added.  “Unemployment being what it’s like it could be very difficult for them to remain clean and remain sober and not re-offend.”

Mr. Madsen said that at this point they are at the top of the priority list and this is not what CDCR wanted to see happen, but they simply do not have the money to pay the contracts at this point.

In addition to Cache Creek Lodge, Walters House in Woodland had to release 19 different clients resulting from their contract with West Care and not having been paid.  They are faith-based and therapeutic community that is supported by a church that started the program, and they run a homeless miss there.  They had to lay off 13 of their staff.

John Madsen told the Vanguard that he is the only counselor still on staff at the Cache Creek Lodge and he’s the program director.  He said, “This state budget has affected everybody, if they don’t get their act together there’s going to be a whole lot of other programs closed.”