San Francisco

Lawmaker Seeks to Give Recovering Addicts Financial Incentives for Not Doing Drugs

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The meth epidemic is growing so quickly that one California lawmaker is looking to take a very different approach -- financial incentives to users who don’t do drugs.

An organization in San Francisco already incorporates these incentives, people in treatment can earn gift cards, but it’s privately funded. Senator Scott Weiner’s bill would use state tax dollars to pay addicts.

“People are rewarded or given incentives when they have tested negative,” said Rick Andrews, associate director of Contingency Management.

A program called The Positive Reinforcement Opportunity Project has been helping people stop using meth for years with counseling and incentives. 

“We keep track of in a bank and when the clients are ready to cash out or they would like something for their test they us know they would pick a gift card or gift certificate,” said Andrews.

The program lasts 12 weeks. Some who tests negative for drugs the entire time, could earn $330 in gift cards. It’s run by the San Francisco Aids Foundation, using private money, geared for the LGBT community.

“The Veterans Administration uses this extensively around the country but here in California, the Department of Healthcare Services has not recognized it as the evidence-based intervention,” said Laura Thomas, director of Harm Reduction Policy.

“We have a major meth problem in san Francisco and elsewhere and its escalating,” said Sen. Weiner.

Sen. Weiner’s bill would expand substance treatment options covered under medical and require medical to provide reimbursement.  That means using tax dollars to buy the gift cards.

“It’s a heck of a lot cheaper to get someone a gift card every week than it is to admit them to the psych emergency room we are spending a huge amount of money on untreated meth addiction now,” said Sen. Weiner.

The bill would also require guidance and training for these programs. 

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