Impact of California's Proposition 36 on the drug treatment system: treatment capacity and displacement

Am J Public Health. 2007 Jan;97(1):104-9. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2005.069336. Epub 2006 Nov 30.


Objectives: California's Proposition 36 offers nonviolent drug offenders community-based treatment as an alternative to incarceration or probation without treatment. We examined how treatment capacity changed to accommodate Proposition 36 clients and whether displacement of other clients was an unintended consequence.

Methods: Treatment admissions were compared for the year before and 2 years after the law was enacted. Surveys of county administrators and treatment providers were conducted in Kern, Riverside, Sacramento, San Diego, and San Francisco counties.

Results: The number of Proposition 36 offenders admitted to treatment continued to increase in the state (approximately 32000 in Year 1 and 48000 in Year 2) and in the 5 counties; total treatment admissions stabilized in Year 2 after increasing in Year 1. Voluntary clients decreased by 8000 each year statewide, but the change varied across counties. One third of treatment providers reported decreased treatment availability for non-Proposition 36 clients in Year 2.

Conclusion: Despite expanded treatment capacity (mostly in outpatient treatment), indirect evidence suggests that displacement of voluntary clients may have occurred in part because of the demand for treatment by Proposition 36 clients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • California
  • Community Mental Health Services / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Community Mental Health Services / organization & administration
  • Community Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Drug and Narcotic Control / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Forensic Psychiatry / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Admission
  • Prisons
  • Program Evaluation
  • Public Health Administration*
  • Substance Abuse Treatment Centers / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Substance Abuse Treatment Centers / organization & administration
  • Substance Abuse Treatment Centers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*