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Witnesses Cite Shortcomings of Drug Rehabilitation

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Washington--Economic and cultural barriers prevent many teenage drug abusers from getting the rehabilitative help they need, witnesses told a Senate panel last week.

Testifying before the Senate Subcommittee on Children, Family, Drugs, and Alcoholism, drug experts said there were not enough slots in drug-rehabilitation programs to serve all the teenagers who need such treatment. Federal officials say there are only 250,000 spaces available each year to serve the estimated 6 million adolescents and adults who need help with their drug problems.

Witnesses pointed out that many adolescents who could benefit from such services come from families that lack health insurance. Moreover, most health-insurance policies do not pay for the prolonged care that many of the teenagers require, the experts said.

Those testifying also argued that many minority teenagers with drug problems are distrustful of the health-care system and may not feel comfortable being treated by mem8bers of other racial or ethnic groups.

"Blacks may be skeptical of being treated by white professionals, Hispanics by blacks, Haitians by Asians, who do not understand 'where they are coming from,"' said Elaine Johnson, director of the Office of Substance Abuse Prevention at the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

She said her office, for the first time, is funding a program that looks at such ethnic differences. Previous projects, she said, have studied white, middle-class adolescents.--ef

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