HARRISBURG – Despite facing another difficult budget year, the Corbett administration has agreed to launch a new state department with a goal of streamlining drug- and alcohol-addiction programs in Pennsylvania.
The state Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs was authorized in 2010, when then-Gov. Ed Rendell signed a bill establishing the new unit. Advocates for drug- and alcohol-addiction treatment programs had pushed for the measure, sponsored by State Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R., Bucks), arguing that it would make such efforts more accessible and save taxpayers money in the long run.
Corbett had resisted implementing it, citing the state’s shrinking tax revenues and strained budget, which had led to painful cuts in most departments. The delay even led to a pointed exchange between DiGirolamo and a senior administration appointee during a hearing on the issue last fall.
“I’m going to fight for this,” DiGirolamo told Charles Zogby, Corbett’s budget secretary, at the time. “I’m just letting you know that.”
Corbett’s office announced the decision in a release late Tuesday.
To head the department, the governor has selected Gary Tennis, former chief of the legislation unit in the Philadelphia’s District Attorney’s Office.
It was not immediately clear what Tennis’ salary would be or how many people would work in the new department – although DiGirolamo said it would absorb about 55 staffers from the existing Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Programs in the Department of Health.
Also unclear Tuesday was what had happened to change Corbett’s mind about creating the department.