Pubdate: Tue, 17 Oct 2006
Source: Register-Guard, The (OR)
Copyright: 2006 The Register-Guard
Author: Matt Cooper, The Register-Guard
Bookmark: (Treatment)
Bookmark: (Youth)


Officials want a first-ever countywide income tax to fight crime, but 
money from the measure also would go to Lane County social service 
agencies, which say they try to address the root causes of crime.

At least $7 million of the $23.1 million raised annually by Measure 
20-114 would support drug and alcohol treatment and prevention 
programs and the reduction of family violence, tax proponents said. 
Ballots go out Friday for a measure that would impose a 1.4 percent 
annual income tax for county public safety services.

Social service experts stress that the measure is about more than 
jail staff and police officers. They want voters to consider all 
parts of the public safety system that would benefit.

Joe O'Brien, director of residential services for Looking Glass, said 
he fears voters won't look at "the whole picture" of the tax measure. 
Eugene-based Looking Glass serves children and families with 
counseling, crisis intervention, substance abuse treatment and other programs.

The tax would pay for more than 25 people to work in family and 
domestic violence, youth therapy, sex offenses, child advocacy, 
juvenile supervision, mental health and early-development programs.

In addition to Looking Glass, social service agencies backing the tax 
measure include the Relief Nursery, a child abuse prevention program; 
Womenspace, which helps victims of domestic violence; and CASA, which 
finds permanent homes for abused and neglected children in foster care.

"Parental drug and alcohol abuse is the number one reason why more 
than 1,400 children entered Oregon's child protective service system 
in 2005," said Megan Friese of CASA. The county income tax measure 
"is about protecting our children's futures and giving them hope for 
a better life."

O'Brien's agency is on the front line and feeling the pressure. 
Because of lack of staff, each year 1,100 kids ages 12 to 17 with 
destructive behaviors - drug abuse, anger issues and criminal 
histories, for example - are not admitted to detention or are 
released from it too soon, said Lisa Smith, director of Youth 
Services for the county.

About 75 percent of them are boys, many of whom would be candidates 
for the Looking Glass Pathways program, which provides alcohol and 
drug education and treatment for boys ages 12 to 18.

The boys who enter Pathways suffer a litany of problems, said Lynne 
Schroeder, assistant director of the youth services department: 
methamphetamine, marijuana or alcohol abuse; criminal records for 
burglary and other felonies; problems at school and at home because 
of parents who have been incarcerated or are drug-addicted, 
impoverished or violent; or any combination thereof.

The boys who emerge from Pathways commit 72 percent fewer crimes in 
the following year, and generally less severe ones, she said.

But the waiting list for Pathways is too long to be an answer for the 
supervisors of many young offenders, Smith said.

Pathways uses only eight of the 21 spots available, because of lack 
of staff. If voters approve the tax, another seven spots would open 
up, Smith said.

That would boost the number of boys served annually to at least 45, 
from 24. But the number probably would be higher even than that, 
officials said, because the tax also would pay for other treatment 
that would allow Pathways to move boys through quicker.

"If you think what these kids are doing with their peers, just 
getting them out of circulation has to have a (positive) impact in 
the community," O'Brien said.

One Pathways resident, a 16-year-old from Cottage Grove, said the 
program helped him realize that drinking was leading him toward 
homelessness or even death.

"There are a lot of people who need to go through what I'm going 
through" at Pathways, he said. "I have a lot of friends who could use the help."
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman