[Hpn] Denver, CO - Denver has alcohol and drug abuse problems twice the national average - Denver Post - June 28, 2002

Editor Editor <hccjr@bellsouth.net>
Thu, 04 Jul 2002 05:52:27 -0500

Drug, alcohol problems tax city
Denver has more alcohol and drug abuse problems than the national average

By Cindy Brovsky - Denver Post - June 28, 2002

Denver has more alcohol and drug abuse problems than the national average and
lacks treatment options, a study released Thursday says.

One way to fund treatment would be increases in the state excise taxes on
alcohol and cigarettes, the report by the mayor's Drug Strategy Commission also

The national research group, based in Washington, D.C., was asked by the city a
year ago to study Denver's alcohol and drug abuse problems. It gathered
information from several sources, including statewide data.

The report shows substance abuse costs businesses and the city $1.5 billion
yearly for police, jail, medical and other expenses.

"This serves as a wake-up call for people who question if we have a problem,"
Mayor Wellington Webb said Thursday.
"Only 7,000 people among the 45,000 who need treatment can get it."

Other findings:

Rates of binge drinking and chronic drinking are about 40 percent higher among
Denver adults than among adults nationwide.

Denver residents are hospitalized for alcohol-related illnesses at nearly twice
the national rate.

Denver's alcohol- and drug-related death rate is more than 50 percent higher
than the national average.

Denver arrests and jails drug offenders at more than twice the national rate.

Jennifer Smith, 18, knows about substance abuse. She works with Urban Peak, a
nonprofit agency for homeless youths.

"I do think the mayor cares, but I've heard these speeches before," Smith said.

"We need them to actually DO something. People see the homeless kids on the 16th
Street Mall and don't really care."

The City Council recently approved a $512,000 request from the mayor for
prevention and treatment programs citywide and in Denver Public Schools. But
Denver's budget crunch will make it more difficult to fund programs without new
revenue sources.

John Walsh of the Drug Strategy Commission said the Colorado legislature could
propose increases in the excise taxes on alcohol and cigarettes, which could be
dedicated toward treatment programs. Voters would have to approve the increases
because of the state's tax-limitation law.

The report shows Colorado's excise taxes are lower than other states'.

    For example, tax on:

    A mug of beer is three-quarters of a cent in Colorado, compared with the
national average of 2.4 cents.

    A glass of wine is taxed 1.38 cents in Colorado, compared with 2.86 cents

    On a glass of liquor, Colorado charges 2.68 cents compared with 4.13 cents

Webb wants to study the recommendations before asking the legislature to
increase the taxes.

"The reality is that it's always been difficult to fund treatment programs in
good times or bad times," Webb said. "As we make the budget priorities, we can't
ignore the social issues that, if not faced, will lead to huge investments in

City Council President Joyce Foster urged the city to address the issue head-on,
despite the budget crunch.

"We have to make changes and can't wait for another year," she said.


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