Pubdate: Sun, 09 May 1999
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 1999 Houston Chronicle


Almost Everywhere Drugs Go, Money Follows

Money is why farmers produce plants to be processed into illegal drugs
instead of cultivating crops of less-profitable food or fiber. Money
is the motivation driving drug dealers. Stealing for money to buy
drugs is behind that big percentage of crime attributed to substance

Fighting drugs is but the flip side of the same coin. Seizing assets
from suspects in drug cases has proved quite lucrative for law
enforcement agencies. This is on top of the vast sums of public money
the government continues pouring into its so-called drug war year
after year, despite an appalling lack of progress to show for it.

Even when it comes to treatment of drug abusers, some high-cost
private facilities have gleaned great profits by keeping drug abusers
until their insurance coverage is exhausted and then releasing them.

Money, however, is in short supply at Houston's Palmer Drug Abuse
Program, or PDAP, which offers free, outpatient substance-abuse
recovery services for youth, using methods based on Alcoholics
Anonymous. Beth Alberts, PDAP executive director, and some of the
organization's trustees, said they have been frustrated by recent
fund-raising efforts.

Raising funds a challenge

PDAP was started in 1971 at Palmer Memorial Church. It boasts a
success rate of 65 percent, meaning 65 out of 100 of those who come
for help manage to achieve sobriety during their first 90 days.

The organization has grown to six locations in the Houston area and
has spread to 10 other cities. Alberts is working to expand to more
Houston locations and said the only roadblock has been a lack of money
to pay counselors to run the programs.

She said PDAP has many longtime loyal contributors and conducts a few
fund-raisers, such as an annual golf tournament, but coming up with
new sources of funding is difficult.

Helping kids with drug problems is one of those things most of us had
rather not think about, unless we have to. It makes us uncomfortable.
It is one of those problems we want others to take care of.

Some of the city's major contributors to charities have let Alberts
know they had rather put their donations into worthy causes that are
more pleasant for people to ponder, such as the city's many arts
programs. So recently, for the first time, Alberts went to City Hall
requesting a $100,000 grant for PDAP.

It seemed a reasonable request, considering the $3.7 million per year
the city pays to finance the much-criticized DARE program. Many
studies over several years show DARE to be, basically, an expensive
flop in cities across the country and here at home.

A better approach than DARE

Some $3.3 million of that DARE budget goes to pay salaries and
benefits for 63 police officers who teach the program. Much of the
rest is spent on T-shirts, bumper stickers, pencils, and other
promotional items.

When you consider that the kids PDAP helps are the kids that DARE had
failed to steer away from drugs, doesn't it seem fair that the DARE
budget should be cut enough to fund the PDAP grant request?

Actually, considering DARE's dismal track record after more than a
dozen years, doesn't it seem that we might be better off doing away
with DARE altogether and finding and funding programs that show better

That isn't likely to happen, though. Police officials wouldn't give up
control of all that money without a big battle. Whenever it is
suggested, DARE advocates promise improvements and suggest the real
problem is that they don't have enough money.

And whenever the discussion turns to money for drug programs here in
Houston, we should remember to factor in the politics. Mayor Lee Brown
was Houston's police chief when DARE was started, and he has led the
federal war as the nation's drug czar. He isn't likely to break ranks
and abandon any government-controlled programs, regardless of how many
studies show they are ineffective.

Mayor Brown also is listed as an advisory member of the PDAP board,
but that hasn't yet counted for anything in the quest for funding.

The funding request before City Council is pending. Meanwhile, if you
know kids who could benefit from PDAP and would like to know more
about the program, you can call Beth Alberts at 713-507-5354.

Thom Marshall's e-mail address is  ---
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