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Ohio governor's proposed budget boosts substance abuse treatment for prisoners

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Treatment services for drug- and alcohol-addicted prisoners would receive a "significant" increase under Gov. John Kasich's proposed $72 billion budget, the state's addictions director said Thursday.

Boosting the number of staffers helping prisoners beat their addictions — an effort with a track record of working — will reduce the number of prisoners who go back behind bars, said Tracy Plouck, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

"We know that treatment works and we know that our ability to connect more individuals with treatment means that fewer folks will be coming back to prison," Plouck said.

Kasich's proposal shifts control of such treatment from the state prisons agency to Plouck's department and boosts the number of staff members involved, currently about 120.

The result is a "significant staff increase," Plouck said. The exact number is being negotiated with state employee unions, said Eric Wandersleben, an agency spokesman.

Of Ohio's approximately 50,000 prisoners, one in eight has a history of addiction and nearly six of every 10 have considerable or moderate treatment needs, Plouck said.

Yet only about 4,500 currently get such treatment, or less than one in 10. Meanwhile, data shows prisoners who receive addiction services while incarcerated have a 10 percent recidivism rate, compared with an overall rate of 27 percent for the general population, Plouck said.

Under the proposal, $12.5 million that the Ohio prisons agency spends annually on addiction services shifts to the addictions services department.

Kasich's proposal would add $15 million to that next year and $22 million the following year.

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