Administrators of the state’s gambling treatment program are again trying to get their money back. The state legislature had originally designated a portion of the revenue generated from the state’s casinos and race tracks to go toward funding the gambling treatment program. Over the last two years the state has diverted over two-million dollars of that money to other portions of the budget. Lisa Pierce runs the Central Iowa Gambling Treatment program office. She says the diversion has led to a 25-percent cut in the amount spent on staff for the program. She says that could lead to setting up waiting lists for treatment.She says part of the disorder is lack of impulse control, and she’s worried that putting someone on a waiting list will increase the suicide rate, bankruptcies, divorces and separations, and increase the amount of criminal behavior. Pierce says the need for the service is very apparent.She says there’s already been a nearly 13-percent increase in calls, even though the advertisements for the helpline have been cut. Jan Meisenbach (Mi-sen-bahk) runs the eastern Iowa treatment program that includes Linn, Johnson, Cedar, Muscatine, Clinton and Scott Counties. She’s had to cut back staff. She says the counselors have a mandatory one month layoff, which she says only increases the workload on others. Meisenbach says 30 percent of their clients are Illinois residents. While the Illinois residents don’t pay for the treatment, she says they aren’t turned away.She says the Illinois gamblers could be put on a waiting list, but she says the repercussions would be “awful.” Meisenbach and Pierce talked to the members of the State Racing and Gaming Commission Thursday, asking for their continued support in getting the money restored.She says getting even a portion of the money restored would be considered a success. Both say it will be difficult to get anything accomplished in this tough budget year, but they say the costs of not treating gamblers will be much more of a burden on the state.
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