Colorado Nets $13 Million For Substance-Abuse Treatment

Colorado is getting a leg up when it comes to substance-abuse rehabilitation services.

Gov. Bill Ritter recently announced that the state would be accepting over $13 million in grant money from the federal government to expand treatment programs for youth and young adults.The money comes courtesy of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a federal entity with a mission to study and fund rehabilitation programs. Funds will go to the Colorado Access to Recovery Program, overseen by the state’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division, which will provide vouchers to youths in need of treatment.

Most recent statistics from SAMHSA report that 56 percent of Colorado’s 430 drug-treatment facilities are private for-profit businesses, with the rest being managed by nonprofit and government entities.

Colorado ranks highest in the United States for the percentage of rehabilitation facilities owned by private for-profit companies, a fact Colorado Confidential reported in November:

One of the reasons for the contrast, Colorado advocates say, is the lack of state funding for substance abuse programs, particularly in the area of residential rehabilitation treatment, which provides patients with a place to live while receiving treatment.

“It’s a very underfunded system,” says Carmelita Muniz, director of the Colorado Association of Alcohol and Drug Service Providers, a group composed of the state’s treatment providers. “Residential is viewed as the most expensive … so you have very few opportunities for residential, especially for women and adolescents.”

Only 14 percent of Colorado treatment centers offer residential care, according to the SAMHSA survey. The number is 28 percent nationally.

Muniz also points to a 2001 study commissioned by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, where Colorado ranked last out of 47 responding states for substance abuse prevention, treatment, and research spending. According to the report, at the time the state dedicated .008 percent of its budget to treatment, which is approximately $548,000. The highest spending state was New York with 1.044 percent of its state budget, or $503.8 million.

Colorado’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division helped craft the grant proposal, along with Peer Assistance, a non-profit treatment organization.

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at