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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s plan for mandatory treatment for all low-level drug offenders could reduce treatment slots for people who seek treatment voluntarily, but don’t have the money to pay for it, critics say.

The governor’s plan, which would make New Jersey the first state to require treatment for nonviolent offenders who are addicted to drugs,  has been praised by addiction experts, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

Some providers point out that the plan would give priority to criminals, some of whom do not want treatment. Providers say that their centers often have waiting lists, and state money to pay for those who cannot afford treatment sometimes runs out before the end of the year, or is frozen.

Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Governor Christie, disputed the claim that the governor’s plan takes away services from others. “What we’re attempting to do is to address a very serious societal problem,” he said. “In doing that, we are not diminishing the addiction services outside the criminal justice system.”

The system that would require drug treatment for low-level offenders, called drug court, could cost up to $35 million, the article notes. The mandatory program would double the court’s current 4,000 participants. Governor Christie has proposed spending $2.5 million for fiscal 2013 to create the mandatory program.


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