I don't agree with Gov. Easley often, but on this I do. The governor's proposal for adding a very modest tax on alcoholic beverages is a very sensible way to fund "mental health."
"Mental health services" in North Carolina, you see, is actually shorthand for mental health, developmental disability and substance abuse services. One of our major substance abuse problems is alcoholism. One of the major sources of developmental disabilities is fetal alcohol syndrome. Among the most difficult cases to deal with in treating mental illness are those people with a co-occurring substance abuse problems – and alcohol sits near the top of that list.
So, this modest assessment on alcohol use, a so-called "sin tax," would be better termed a user fee in which we are asking those who use alcohol, including me, to pay for some of the services needed to repair some of the damages caused by alcohol abuse. And, you know what, if you can't afford to add less than a nickel for your bottle of beer, glass of wine or mixed drink, you really need to stop drinking anyway.
So, let your legislators know that you wouldn't mind paying a bit to help fund these much needed services.
Gary D. Gaddy
Printed in an edited version in the News and Observer (Raleigh) on May 31, 2008.