(WASHINGTON) – The union which represents employees at the District of Columbia’s Addiction Prevention and Recovery Administration (APRA) called on the DC City Council to restore services to thousands of DC residents struggling with addiction. According to the District government’s own web site approximately 60,000 or 12 percent of DC residents struggle with substance abuse, but the American Federation of Government Employees said city leaders are not taking the best action needed to manage the situation. In fact, AFGE wants to know why DC City Councilmember David Catania, chair of the Committee on Health who will hold a hearing tomorrow, didn’t ask any of the APRA employees or union representatives to testify on the impact budget cuts are having on the agency.
“The simple fact is with the budget cuts initiated by the Mayor – There are no services, said Johnnie Walker president of AFGE Local 383 who represents employees in the agency. The agency has been crippled by lay-offs, leaving a vulnerable population struggling to battle their demons alone. “If Councilman David Catania wants to know what’s happening at APRA we can tell him. The people who need help the most are not getting it. But, I can’t say we’re surprised. This has been the mantra of this administration, if you really need help, forget about it.”
“The real issue here is community impact,” said AFGE 14th District President Dwight Bowman. “Addiction ravages the lives of the affected, but it also irreparably damages their families, and undermines public safety, as many of those struggling with addition often resort to criminal activity to deal with their habit.”
During the summer, the Fenty administration moved to eliminate services by terminating over 100 employees at the addiction recovery agency, saying that budget constraints required the government to hand the work over to a private contractor. By the end of August, APRA was no longer providing direct service and the agency has been unable to find a contractor able to appropriately perform the work.
“We continue to see this throughout D.C. government. Public services are being privatized under the guise of budgetary constraints without any determination as to whether or not privatization actually saves money,” said Walker referring to privatization initiatives carried out by the Fenty administration at D.C. Parks and Recreations and the D.C. Department of Mental Health. “It is becoming increasingly clear that the Fenty administration just does not believe that the government should be in the business of providing public services.”