------------------------------------------------------------------- Portland Wins Bid For Drug Program (Eleven Other US Cities Will Participate In New $195 Million Federal Project To Keep Young People 'Off Drugs') 'The Oregonian' Monday, December 22, 1997 * Twelve cities will take part in the first phase of a $195 million federal project to keep young people off drugs By Dana Tims of The Oregonian staff April B. Whitworth isn't sure about the statistics, but she welcomed President Clinton's announcement Sunday naming Portland as one of a dozen cities to participate in a new program to keep young people off drugs. Whitworth, a drug treatment program manager for adolescents, disputed the program's underlying assumption that U.S. youth are turning away from drugs. But along with city, police and school officials, she hailed Portland's inclusion in the $195 million program. She said its strong educational and prevention component stands a good chance of diverting children from drugs before they ever start using them. "This is wonderful news for everyone involved in the effort to keep children from using drugs," said Whitworth, program manager for CareMark Behavorial Services. in Portland. "It's a lot better to see the money spent ahead of time, when we can still reach them, than only when it's too late and we've already lost them." Portland is among the cities in the program's $20 million opening phase. The money will pay for a variety of anti-drug messages, targeted at children ages 9 to 17. The messages will appear in numerous places, including television and the Internet. Portland Mayor Vera Katz enthusiastically embraced the venture and Portland's role in it. "Everything I've seen indicates drug use is still a very serious problem here and that a lot of the gang activity and violence on Portland's streets is related to drug use," Katz said. "Whatever success we can have in sending a strong anti-drug message to our young people will be very welcome." Katz said the city's inclusion in the program stems from a Regional Drug Initiative grant submitted to the federal government. How much of the program's financing might come to Portland, or whether the city will participate in all phases of the effort, was unclear Sunday. Gen. Barry McCaffrey, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said the program would "harness the energies of parents, mass media, corporate America and the anti-drug coalitions to halt and reverse the disturbing rise in drug use among young people." In addition to Portland, the ads will be tested from January through April in Atlanta; Baltimore; Boise; Denver; Hartford, Conn.; Houston; Milwaukee; San Diego; Sioux City, Iowa; Tucson, Ariz.; and Washington, D.C. The program will try to capitalize on recent statistics showing that more young people in the United States are turning away from drugs, McCaffrey said. But Whitworth said she hasn't seen that trend in Portland. "The number of kids using drugs is as high right now as it's ever been, if not higher," she said. "But this is just the target audience you want to hit with this message, and I'm very excited about its potential." * On Saturday, Clinton released results from a new national survey suggesting that drug use among eighth-graders appears to have stopped climbing for the first time in more than five years. * Among the 18,600 eighth-graders surveyed, 29.4 percent said they had tried an illegal drug, usually marijuana, compared with 31.2 percent last year. * In Oregon, trends are going the other way. * Juveniles arrested for drug-related offenses in the state have quadrupled since 1991, according to another survey. The number of teens who tested positive for drugs after arrest jumped from 12 percent in 1992 to 33 percent last year. * Other local officials held out hope that the latest anti-drug initiative can help reduce those numbers. * "For every person we can prevent from using drugs, we save many thousands of dollars, on my side, in prosecuting and incarcerating people," said Multnomah County District Attorney Michael Schrunk. "Prevention is clearly the way we need to go." * Drug prevention remains the cheapest and least pursued tool to reduce adolescent drug use, he said. The 12 cities were chosen for their diverse ethnic, demographic and geographic audiences, McCaffrey said. The messages will focus on "entry-level," or easily obtained, substances such as marijuana and inhalants. Some cities also will have ads targeting drug problems specific to their areas, he said. -------------------------------------------------------------------
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