California lawmakers are considering a radical proposal to fight drug addiction – they want to pay people to keep them sober.
As outlined in a bill introduced by California State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), the “contingency management” program offers cash payments for negative drugs tests. Participants receive money through gift cards and have the opportunity to earn a few hundred dollars if they complete the program without any positive tests.
“I think there is a lot in this strategy for everyone to like,” says Wiener. “Most important of all, it works.”
Whether or not the strategy works is up for debate. Addiction is an extremely motivating force and I don’t doubt that some participants will stick it out just long enough to earn the money they need to buy drugs. Research suggests many participants will relapse within six months of completing the program.
The state of California has a long and sordid history with drug addiction and rates have continued to rise despite billions of dollars invested in “harm reduction” strategies. Illicit drug use is particularly severe in San Francisco, where addicts outnumber high school students by more than 50%.
Not surprisingly, California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) supports Wiener’s proposal and has already asked the Biden Administration for permission to use taxpayer dollars through Medicaid to pay for it. The Biden Administration is likely to support the measure even though California law prohibits residents from profiting off drug treatment programs.
It is unclear how much money the program would cost. As reported by NPR, a program with 1,000 participants could cost up to $286,000. This is a low estimate considering the state’s enormous homeless population (161,000 before the pandemic) and Medicaid enrollment (14 million), to say nothing of fraud.
Nonetheless, the proposal cleared the California Senate with no opposition and is awaiting review in the Assembly.
Author’s Note: Another stupid decision from California. Don’t they know by now that you can’t just throw money at something to make it go away?