Activists Rally for Substance Abuse Funding in Utah

Around 400 people showed up at the Capitol Rotunda in Salt Lake City, Utah yesterday to underline the importance of substance abuse funding to lawmakers. Members of the crowd carried posters and placards saying, “Forgive me my past, allow me a future” and “My recovery voice matters.” Individuals also shared their own stories of recovery with lawmakers. Utah’s Drug Offender Reform Act (DORA) was created as a pilot program back in 2005, and had an operating budget of only $8 million as of 2008. “There’s not enough money,” says Santiago Cortez, chairman for the Utah Substance Abuse and Anti-Violence Coordinating Council. “There is a culture here of locking people up who are afflicted with a disease.” Cortez says the council has high hopes that the budget will stay steady this year, but ultimately that decision is up to the state’s lawmakers. The activists grabbed the attention of one lawmaker in particular; House Speaker Becky Lockhart was introduced as a champion of DORA and a strong supporter of the treatment program. “This is a model that works,” she said. “Please talk to your legislators—don’t be afraid.”

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