Editorial by Manchester Union Leader
Of all the state government’s dedicated funds, the Alcohol Fund is the most logical and compelling. Five percent of New Hampshire Liquor Commission revenues are supposed to bypass the general fund and go straight into the Alcohol Fund, where they are to finance substance abuse treatment and prevention.
A state that hawks liquor to keep taxes low ought to dedicate some of its booze revenue to fighting addiction, the reasoning goes.
The law that created the fund anticipated that it would be so flush that its cash could be invested and grow on its own. And since the fund got started in 2003 (it was authorized in 2000), Liquor Commission revenue has nearly doubled, growing from more than $300 million to more than $600 million.
But most of the money that was supposed to have gone into the Alcohol Fund went to the general fund instead. The Alcohol Fund received its full statutory appropriation only in 2003. Ever since, either the Legislature or the governor or both have tapped it to pay for other things. Tens of millions of dollars that were – by law – supposed to go to combat substance abuse were instead diverted into the general fund, exactly what the Alcohol Fund was created to prevent.
Last year, 321 people died of drug overdoses in New Hampshire. Tym Rourke, chairman of the Governor’s Commission on Prevention, Treatment and Recovery, says the figure could more than double next year if nothing is done. In fact, given the thousands of times the overdose drug Narcan was administered in New Hampshire last year, we easily could have seen several thousand overdose deaths in 2014 had first-responders not done wonders with that drug.
Everyone seems to agree that New Hampshire is in the midst of a drug addiction epidemic. And yet the state fund established to fight drug addiction continues to go underfunded as politicians raid it for other purposes. Worse, the funding is mandated by law and still it is not done.
Last week the Senate Finance Committee recommended a large increase in funding. It was a welcome sign, but still not the 5 percent the Alcohol Fund should get. If the account cannot be fully funded after the state lost the equivalent of the entire population of the town of Randolph to overdoses last year, when will it? – See more at: http://www.unionleader.com/apps/pbcs.dll