Retired Colonel to Lead Drug Fight Anew!

Retired Colonel to Lead Drug Fight Anew!
Posted by FoM on February 13, 1999 at 11:16:26 PT

 Gov. Jeb Bush promised a renewed fight against Florida's growing drug problem Friday and named a retired Army colonel who has fought the drug war on the national front to lead the state's efforts. 
"There is no higher priority in my life," said Bush, 46. "It is our generation who screwed this up, and it is our generation's responsibility to fix this." At a statewide drug summit attended by 500 anti-drug leaders, Bush announced the appointment of James McDonough, 52, as the state's drug policy coordinator. McDonough, who commanded combat troops in Bosnia and led relief efforts in Rwanda, is the No. 2 official in the federal government's Office of National Drug Control Policy. "Florida is one of the worst states in the nation," McDonough said. "We estimate that 22 to 30 percent of all illegal drugs that come into this country enter through Florida." The state has not had a drug czar since the administration of former Gov. Bob Martinez, which ended in 1991. A 1998 state Senate report found the state has no coordinated drug policy; poor communication among state and local agencies and community groups means they often duplicate efforts; and substance abuse often loses out to other budget priorities. Because of the lack of coordination, the state can only guess that it spent $527-million fighting drugs last year, said Senate President Toni Jennings, and it has no way of tracking whether that money was well-spent. Fixing those problems will be McDonough's job. Pending Senate confirmation, McDonough will assume the $92,000 position in March. But both Jennings and House Speaker John Thrasher pledged to help him, announcing several legislative initiatives to be considered this session. One would reinstate mandatory sentences for drug traffickers. Another would establish a task force that will focus on drug money laundering. A third would allow school districts to conduct random drug tests. "I don't know if this is good idea or not, but it shows the degree of frustration at the pervasiveness of drugs," Thrasher said. Government leaders also heard from recovered addicts and the families of children who didn't recover. Statistics from various government agencies show drug use among Florida's teens is on the rise. In Orange County, there has been a rash of fatal heroin overdoses in recent years. One was Tinker Cooper's son. She found him face down in a pool of blood. "People say, "They're druggies, their families are lousy people,' " Cooper said. "Well, we're not. . . . A lot of us tried the tough love thing, and they died." Others pleaded for more money to treat drug addiction. The Department of Children and Families estimates that 247,000 children are in need of drug treatment services, but only a fraction -- 42,000 -- received treatment last year. William Moyers is the public policy director at the Hazelden Foundation. He is also an award-winning former journalist -- and a drug addict who recovered after three treatment attempts. "Please don't wage war on people like me -- good people with a bad disease who can't find help or can't afford to pay for it," he said. U.S. drug czar Barry McCaffrey said the state must coordinate its drug treatment, law enforcement and education efforts. One California study showed that for every $1 the state spends on treatment, it saves $7 in drug-related social costs. "Madam and Mr. Taxpayer, this will pay off in dollars in the short run," McCaffrey said. Jennings, who organized Friday's drug summit, said it was only a first step. "We are going to fight it every single day until we appear not to have to fight it anymore," she said. "And then we are not going to stop, because that's what happened to us -- we took our eye off the ball." 
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