What do a parking garage for state senators and substance abuse treatment programs have in common?
Nothing, except the state is choosing one over the other.
Repairs to a parking garage for state senators and their staff, costing $28 million, are nearly complete.
The underground parking garage holds 210 cars.
So the cost?
$133,000 per space.
Just across the street, a parking garage with room for 100 cars sits virtually empty.
The spending is taking place as the Department of Corrections is cutting a like amount, $29 million, from substance abuse treatment.
The cuts will close some programs and send some offenders to prison.
Mark Fontaine is the Executive Director of the FL Alcohol and Drug Abuse Assn.
“And every community will be affected. Drug courts in particular. Veterans courts will lose very well, will have a greatly diminished option” says Fontaine, a 40-year veteran in the fight against drugs.
DOC says the cuts are needed to fund inmate health care.
“Mental health is health care, but substance abuse is not. They are drawing a distinction. We don’t think there is a distinction” says Fontaine.
“This is health care.”
State lawmakers could make budget amendments to save the programs before the cuts take effect a week from Friday, but so far, they aren’t budging.
The treatment programs make up just 1.5 percent of DOC’s $2.4 billion budget.
“Its hard to imagine in a budget that you can’t find 1.5 percent,” said Fontaine.
Senators say they will deal with the substance abuse funding in the fall or spring.
But by then, it may be too late for some of the programs to survive and some receiving treatment will be behind bars.
The parking garage repairs were necessary for safety, but constructing a new above ground parking garage would have cost less than half as much.
Fontaine did not respond to a direct question about drug treatment being less of a priority than underground parking for elected officials.