- The Washington Times - Monday, November 25, 2002

On Nov. 5, D.C. voters approved Initiative 62, which would force the judicial system to prescribe treatment instead of jail time for some drug offenders. The following week, city lawyers were in court, arguing against implementation of the initiative on several fronts. A judge, however, ruled against the city's request for a preliminary injunction. The good news is that another hearing is scheduled for Jan. 10. The other good news is that the city cannot spend one cent on the program. Congress has not approved the city's budget for fiscal 2003. So, new spending, including the programs called for by Initiative 62, is prohibited. That solves the immediate problem.
Long term? The city simply cannot afford to implement Initiative 62, which calls for 12 months of mandatory drug treatment for first- and second-time offenders. The policies and the programs would be in the hands of health care workers instead of the judicial system. That means jobs for the new health-care bureaucracy and errors but no trials on the part of drug offenders. Why? The D.C. health- care safety net for the indigent and underinsured is about to drop. Hospitals and contractors serving the District's poor have not been paid, and Washington Hospital Center, which maintains the city's premier emergency facilities, is cutting back service. Meanwhile, the D.C. Council seems content saying, "I told you so" to Mayor Williams.
The District's elected leadership has a make-or-break and life-or-death situation on its hands. Now is the time to stop pointing fingers and start offering solutions.

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