Sixty thousand federal workers received notice Thursday they could soon be off the job without pay. It's part of nationwide budget cuts after Congress and the President couldn't agree on a budget.
Customs and Border Control workers were told they could be taking furlough as early as mid-April and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said customs wait times could increase 150 to 200 percent.
The budget cuts will affect another big program that has those in Missouri very worried.
First Call at East 63rd Street and Holmes Road is one of many drug treatment referral and assessment centers in Kansas City where many addicts come seeking help. But now that help could be threatened because of sequestration cuts – this as heroin use is on the rise across Missouri.
Michelle Irwin is outraged over the prospect of losing federal grant money earmarked for drug treatment and rehabilitation.
"It's frightening," she said. "This is a chronic and fatal disease, addiction is, whether it's alcohol or drugs. It'll kill you if you don't seek treatment."
Irwin herself is a recovering alcoholic and knows firsthand how difficult it is to seek treatment and how costly it could be. Her organization, First Call, is a drug treatment and referral center and it received about 20 percent of its annual budget from the federal government. The money it receives could go away because of mandatory, across-the-board, budget cuts commonly referred to as sequestration.
"With less funding those services would be dwindled down along with the availability of one-on-one treatment available in the city," Irwin said.
Last week Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver tweeted that the budget cuts would cause the state to lose $1.3 million in drug treatment grants and at least 3,300 addicts would not receive treatment. The numbers were based on a White House report.
It comes on the heels of a new study from the Missouri Recovery Network that shows a spike in heroin use throughout the state in addition to the number of deaths linked to the drug. In 2011, 244 people died from heroin use, 190 people died from it in 2010 and 167 in 2009.
Experts said heroin is now a cost-effective high for people addicted to prescription pain medication like Oxycontin and Vicodin.
"People are using that as the cheaper option. It's $10 a bag as opposed to $80 a pill," Prevention Specialist for First Call Reshida Rone said.
Administrators said they are broadening their outreach and keeping and an ear to the street to help the addicts affected by heroin, all the while bracing for a potential cut in funding.
"There has been a lot of things that we've been doing and they've been doing to help short-circuit this impact in our community," Rone said.
First Call hasn't received any letter or warning from the Federal Government pertaining to funds being cut but administrators are looking at all options to make sure treatment is available.
Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
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