7 Alcohol-Abuse Progams Face Loss of County Funds

Times Staff Writer

Seven alcohol treatment programs are expected to lose a total of about $1 million a year in public funding from Los Angeles County because of chronic mismanagement, including allegedly "deplorable" living conditions for people undergoing treatment.

Two other programs have had their funding threatened by failure to obtain necessary state licenses.

The cuts in programs scattered throughout the county from Long Beach to El Monte jeopardize services mainly to poor people who voluntarily seek treatment for alcohol problems at neighborhood, community-based organizations funded by the county.

County health officials recommended terminating funds to a program in Watts run by the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science after inspectors found bathroom sinks propped up by poles, eating facilities overrun with vermin, old furniture with the stuffing exposed, broken windows and walls with gaping holes.

A health department memorandum to Robert Gates, head of the Department of Health Services, recommends that he advise the Board of Supervisors to cut off funding June 30 to this "particularly deplorable program," located at 10801 S. Wilmington Ave. in a former motel, which was described as "a dilapidated facility bereft of any sense of vitality."

A second alcohol treatment program located at 9307 S. Central Ave., which is also operated by Drew, is recommended for funding through the end of the year, but only on the condition that improvements are made in the facilities, described in the memorandum as "dirty and in disrepair."

Drew has received a total of about $500,000 a year from the county to run the two programs that treat about 250 people annually.

The school retains 30% of the funds for overhead costs that include administrative expenses, such as bookkeeping and insurance payments, said Eleanor Foster, budget analyst for Drew's alcohol treatment programs. She said program officials "are continuing to try to correct the deficiencies that were found." Without county funding, she added, the programs will probably fold.

Officials from the county's Office of Alcohol Programs criticized Drew's overhead expense as "relatively high" compared with other similar programs.

"In my opinion, it actually goes into a black hole," senior contract program auditor Ron Dowell said.

Return on Money

"You don't see the kind of return on the money that we want," said another county auditor, Roger Mullendore.

The auditors said their concerns about Drew's programs were heightened by the fact that the school is "no mom-and-pop operation."

Affiliated with the 200-bed Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center, the medical school has an annual budget of about $28 million. It runs about 50 community-based health and educational programs, in addition to providing medical training to 200 students, about half of them studying to be physician assistants and medical technicians.

Serious financial problems at Drew recently forced the layoff of 70 clerical workers and reductions in salaries for all physicians and some top administrators. In making the cuts in January, school President Walter Leavell said he was guarding against a projected deficit of $3.5 million.

The county supervisors award about $17 million a year to about 100 alcohol treatment programs run by "grass-roots, community-based" neighborhood organizations that mainly serve the poor, said Al Wright, head of the health department's Office of Alcohol Programs.

He is recommending that the supervisors cut off funds to several "substandard" programs, which he said will probably put some of them out of business. Wright said efforts will be made to redistribute the funds to worthier programs in the same general geographical area.

Leave Void

For residents of South-Central Los Angeles, a shutdown of the Drew programs would leave a void in alcohol treatment services, already aggravated by the closure this week of CareUnit Behavioral Center of Los Angeles in Baldwin Hills. The private, 104-bed center, owned by Comprehensive Care Corp., specialized in the treatment of alcohol- and drug-abuse problems. It received no special alcohol treatment funds from the county.

The alcohol treatment programs funded by the county and recommended for cuts effective June 30 include programs in El Monte, Pico Rivera and East Los Angeles run by the Community Service Organization, which has received a combined $540,000 from the county to operate the programs.

"All of these programs have experienced chronic instability in the work force," according to the health department memorandum. "The East Los Angeles facility has been in a state of chronic disrepair."

The American Indian Free Clinic in Compton, whose facilities were described in the memorandum as "dirty and in disrepair," is scheduled to lose $124,000 a year in funds. A program in downtown Los Angeles that is run by the Indian Alcoholism Commission of California is also slated for cuts because of "chronic deficiencies in program management."

The Valley Women's Center, which runs alcohol treatment programs in Northridge, is not recommended for renewal of its contract because of the center's failure to obtain state licensing for its residential program. Similar licensing problems have prompted county health officials to recommend that no funds be awarded to a Long Beach program operated by Behavioral Health Services Inc.

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