Sunday, June 26, 2005

Louisian Program Treats Gambling Addiction

Reprinted from "The Advocate" 6/25/05.

NEW ORLEANS -- A fledgling state program that offers treatment rather than jail to some gambling addicts who commit certain nonviolent crimes is helping to put Louisiana at the "forefront" of efforts to deal with problem gambling, Attorney General Charles Foti said Friday.

"They can keep their families together. They can deal with their addiction," Foti, touting two of the benefits of the new "Gambling Treatment Referral Program," said at the 19th annual Conference on Prevention, Research and Treatment of Problem Gambling.

"We're attempting to reach the root of the problem," he said.

The referral program is a joint effort of Foti's office, the state Department of Health and Hospitals' Office for Addictive Disorders, the Louisiana Association on Compulsive Gambling and local district attorneys.

It is designed to help first or second offenders who have committed nonviolent crimes that are directly related to compulsive gambling receive treatment instead of prison time. The crimes can include theft, forgery, issuing worthless checks, credit-card fraud, insurance fraud and failure to pay child support. Addicts sometimes resort to those crimes to fuel their gambling habits.

I have always thought that the issue of criminal activity related to compulsive gambling is behind the times when compared to drugs or alcohol in our society. I am glad to see this starting to change. I hope the program is successful and other states begin to follow suit.