Pubdate: Fri, 19 Aug 2005
Source: Asheville Citizen-Times (NC)
Copyright: 2005 Asheville Citizen-Times


Historically, America's "war on drugs" isn't known for ambiguity or variety
of perspective. "Just Say No" leaves little room for context, and the
mandatory-sentencing laws and zero-tolerance policies left in that vintage
slogan's wake do little to address the underlying causes and wide-ranging
effects of drug abuse. Even as local policymakers focus on enforcement,
other community members have taken a front-row seat to the fallout of the
local and national drug problem. Leaders of community and faith-based
organizations have seen neighborhoods and families decimated by drug use,
while public educators and social service workers observe the day-to-day
effect of drugs on the communities and programs they serve.

Now for the first time, an Asheville Drug Commission has formed to design
and implement a wider-ranging approach to drug abuse prevention and
treatment. With the inclusion of representatives from a spectrum of local
social services and community groups, the commission championed by Vice
Mayor Carl Mumpower may present the most effective strategy yet for
Asheville's drug wars - which is to say, no single strategy at all.

Gene Bell, of the Asheville Housing Authority, aptly noted that past
initiatives have focused on police at the front line of the city's drug
battles, prioritizing punishment of lawbreakers over education and social
programs addressing the underlying roots and wide-ranging impact of drug
use. When such initiatives are included, they have taken a separate and
secondary role to that of enforcement.

As Bell sees it, "Nothing has worked because we haven't tried using all
these approaches simultaneously."

We hope this diversity of perspective and method can prove the Asheville
Drug Commission's greatest tactical advantage in the war on drugs. While
enforcement may keep one mental illness sufferer from self-medicating, it
will never address the link between access to mental health treatment for
low-income citizens and subsequent drug use. Likewise, removing children
from a home in which drugs and domestic violence feed on one another - while
helpful in the short run - does nothing to prevent the next family from
falling into this tragic pattern. These problems cannot be addressed out of
proper context, wherein drug abuse prevention and treatment are inextricably
linked to child welfare, education, urban renewal and public health.

The new commission takes a commendable long-range view of the situation, in
which the drug war is not merely a means to one particular end, but takes
its rightful place in the big picture toward a better community for the

Indeed, Mumpower sees the initiative as part of a larger vision for
Asheville: "I came to believe that if we couldn't succeed with drugs, we
couldn't move forward with other things we need to do."


Gene Bell, Asheville Housing Authority

Judge Gary S. Cash, Chief District Court judge

Valerie Collins, Helpmate

Dr. Buddy Corbin, Calvary Baptist Church

Joe Damore, Mission St. Joseph's Hospital

Cliff Dodson, superintendent, Buncombe County Schools

Chief Bill Hogan, Asheville Police Department

Beverly Jeter, Housing Resident Association

Robert Logan, superintendent, Asheville City Schools

Rick Lutovsky, Asheville Chamber of Commerce

Sheriff Bobby Medford, Buncombe County Sheriff's Dept.

Ron Moore, district attorney

Dr. Carl Mumpower, vice mayor, City of Asheville

Nathan Ramsey, chairman, Buncombe County Commissioners

Bob Smith, Asheville Buncombe Community Relations Council

Virgil Smith, publisher, Asheville Citizen Times

Mandy Stone, Buncombe County DSS

Jerry Vehaun, director, Buncombe County Emergency Management

Paul Vest, director, YMCA
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