Problem gambling is one of Louisiana’s most serious health issues. It affects not just the person struggling with gambling addiction; it affects that person’s family, friends, co-workers and society as a whole.
To help raise awareness about Lousiana’s efforts to expand treatment and prevention of problem gambling in conjunction with statewide health care reform, Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco has declared March 6-12 National Problem Gambling Awareness Week in Louisiana.
“When we talk about improving health care in Louisiana, people sometimes forget that improving treatment and offering more preventive care for behavioral health problems such as addiction is a key element,” said LDH Secretary Dr. Fred Cerise. “We offer a wide variety of treatment programs aimed specifically at problem gamblers, and we hope this week will spread awareness of the problem and its many solutions.”
A Study of Problem Gambling conducted through the Department of Health and Hospitals, Office for Addictive Disorders estimates there are as many as 126,000 problem and pathological gamblers in Louisiana who could benefit from services aimed at curbing their addiction.
The state offers treatment services including outpatient treatment centers for compulsive gambling throughout the state and one residential treatment facility, a toll-free helpline that handles approximately 200 calls per month from people with gambling problems, an intensive outpatient program with board and care available in New Orleans and a Web site aimed at the prevention of problem gambling in youth at www.thegamble.org.
Last year, Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti initiated the pretrial diversion program as a means of helping first time offenders get help with gambling addictions through treatment rather than incarceration.
The Gambling Treatment Referral Program Pilot Project is a cutting edge program aimed at helping those who have committed non-violent crimes related to compulsive gambling.
“As a former sheriff, I know there are many crimes committed today that can be traced to an individual’s compulsive gambling problem. The primary goals of this program are; restitution, decreased recidivism, relief of crowded dockets and reduction of numbers of persons incarcerated,” stated Attorney General Foti.
The Louisiana Attorney General’s office partnered with the Office Addictive Disorders to offer treatment through this program.
“This approach is similar to other health care reform measures being implemented in our state because it is both client-driven and cost-effective,” said LDH Office for Addictive Disorders Assistant Secretary Michael Duffy. “This allows people who commit gambling-related offenses such as embezzlement or failure to pay child support to make retribution for their crimes while ensuring they are less likely to commit these offenses again. In addition, it also is a better use of state dollars, since treatment on average costs one-tenth what it costs the state to support an incarcerated individual.”
Treatment for gambling addiction is one area where Louisiana is considered a leader. The state was one of the first to have a publicly funded residential treatment facility, CORE: Center for Recovery in Shreveport, for compulsive gamblers. Because of recognition for Louisiana’s treatment programs, New Orleans has been designated as the site for the 19th Annual Conference on Prevention, Research and Treatment of Problem Gambling. That conference will take place June 23-25 of this year.
For more information about gambling treatments available through the state, please visit www.dhh.lousiana.gov.