D.C. Council members yesterday sharply disagreed with Mayor Marion Barry's proposed fiscal 1989 spending plan to combat drug abuse and vowed to add more money for treatment and prevention.
During a daylong budget hearing, members of the council's Committee on Human Services indicated that drug abuse programs would be one of several areas -- including spending for the mentally retarded and the homeless -- in which the Barry administration could expect the council to make some major shifts in priorities.
"They can expect us to redirect much of the funds," said council member H.R. Crawford (D-Ward 7), chairman of the committee. "This budget is not going to be a blueprint for us to stamp and send back."
Crawford said the mayor's $616.5 million human services budget proposal contains a collection of "misdirected" priorities. While the drug abuse portion of the budget emphasizes drug treatment, Crawford said the council wants to stress prevention instead.
The mayor's plan to shift funds from other human service areas to increase the homeless budget by $13 million is "like creating incentives to attract people to shelters," Crawford said.
During a break in the often heated budget hearing, human services Director M. Jerome Woods said he expects to have numerous meetings with Crawford's committee and the council as a whole to explain the spending shifts proposed by the mayor. "We were faced with a painful dilemma," said Woods, "and it is not a question of commitment but a question of how we are going to structure the shifts."
Although the proposed human services budget is the largest of any city agency, on Wednesday nearly 100 people representing poor people, AIDS patients, the mentally retarded and the handicapped appeared at a committee hearing to call for increased spending for programs that provide services to their respective groups.
Yesterday, Woods and his staff defended the budget in a 66-page statement that stressed the department's plans to maintain current service levels despite funding shifts. Woods emphasized that his department has lost flexibility in determining spending priorities because a number of programs and services are court mandated.
Crawford, however, appeared unsympathetic. He called the 66-page statement "a tactic to frustrate us" and said he plans to push the human services department to set priorities "that reflect the concerns of residents."
Crawford said he will move to restore funds that Barry has proposed cutting from programs for the mentally retarded, reduce proposed increases in funds for homeless shelters and restore some money cut from public assistance programs.
But it was the drug abuse budget that captured much of the attention of council members at yesterday's hearing. Although nearly 1,300 people are on the waiting list to enter city drug and alcohol treatment clinics, the proposed $27.1 million budget for the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services Administration budget calls for an increase in funding of only $226,000.
The agency's budget, when adjusted to discount pay increases for the coming year, is actually lower than the budget for the current fiscal year, according to Council Chairman David A. Clarke.
Clarke indicated that of all the programs in the human services budget, he considers drug treatment the top priority -- and he vowed to find the money to pay for increased programs.
After drug agency administrator John A. Jackson Jr. acknowledged that he had originally recommended that the mayor increase the agency's funding by $3.8 million, Clarke instructed Woods to determine what city experts believe is an appropriate amount to spend on drug abuse programs.
Clarke said he would use the response as a blueprint for rewriting the agency's budget to meet increased needs. "If there's anything the city needs at this time, it's that," he said.
Other council members expressed different concerns. Wilhelmina J. Rolark (D-Ward 8) said the proposed drug agency budget devotes inadequate resources to prevention, while John Ray (D-At Large) worried that the agency does not have adequate means to judge the success of the various treatment programs.