Frustrated by out-of-control increases in drug overdose deaths, California’s leaders are trying something radical: They want the state to be the first to pay people to stay sober.

The federal government has been doing it for years with military veterans and research shows it is one of the most effective ways to get people to stop using drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine, stimulants for which there are no pharmaceutical treatments available.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration is supporting a plan that would pay people struggling with drug addiction to stay sober. Called contingency management, Newsom’s administration is asking the federal government permission to pay for the treatment through Medicaid. Clifford, who was addicted to meth, enrolled in a program run by the San Francisco Aids Foundation that has been running a small privately-funded contingency management program for years. Clifford completed the program without a positive test and used the money he received to buy a laptop computer so he could go back to school

It works like this: People earn small incentives or payments for every negative drug test over a period of time. Most people who complete the treatment without any positive tests can earn a few hundred dollars. They usually get the money on a gift card.

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