Drug Czar's Visit Sparks Shot at $500,000 Grant

Drug Czar's Visit Sparks Shot at $500,000 Grant
Posted by FoM on April 23, 2000 at 12:05:27 PT
By Ajowa Nzinga Ifateyo 
Source: Miami Herald
After the nation's drug czar visited Opa-locka's Triangle on Tuesday, city officials got busy applying for a $500,000 grant for drug treatment and mental health counseling -- to begin to attack one component of Opa-locka's crime problem at its roots.
``We can keep arresting people all day long, but until we have some viable alternatives for this problem, we're never going to overcome this issue,'' City Manager Anthony Robinson said Wednesday.Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, told a standing-room-only crowd at the Triangle's Young, Bowers and Brown Cultural Arts Center that the drug problem is really a community problem. He said residents must come together to identify the addicts in their neighborhoods and get them help. He also suggested that residents organize programs for youth that would provide alternatives to drug experimentation.McCaffrey alluded to White House financial support for the city when he said that Robinson, as grant writer for the city, was one of the most important men in Opa-locka.Robinson said Wednesday that two of McCaffrey's assistants remain in town to help city personnel apply for grants from the Drug-Free Communities Program, a national initiative for building local coalitions to prevent drug use among young people.The grants are awarded over a five-year period with a maximum of $100,000 a year to help reduce substance abuse among youth and to encourage private groups and public agencies to work together to solve a community's drug problems. David Choates, executive director of the Broward County Commission on Substance Abuse in Fort Lauderdale, said the grants and McCaffrey's leadership have made an absolute difference.``Both Miami and Broward County are under the national average in drug use,'' he said. ``Things have been changing, and it happened after he came in. This has been the No. 1 market in the whole country for a long time. He's done a tremendous job.'' Choates attributed the decline to putting drug use back on the national agenda, public service announcements and advertisements, and the coming together of groups like his community anti-drug coalition. ``If you delay the use of drugs by youth by just a few years, you have solved the drug problem,'' Choates said. ``If you keep a kid from getting involved in drugs before age 18, you won't have a problem.''The Miami Coalition For a Safe and Drug-Free Community recently released a report showing that marijuana and alcohol use and tolerance for such use by young people has declined over the past five years.The study was based on a 1999 survey of Miami-Dade public and parochial students in grades 7 to 12 by other students with no adults present. It showed that marijuana use declined from 13.4 percent in 1995 to 10.4 percent in 1999. It also showed disapproval of a friend's use of marijuana rose from 48 precent to 60 percent over the same four-year period.In Opa-locka, police estimate 40 percent of the drug problem is due to local residents and 60 percent to people from places as close as Carol City and as far away as Florida City, West Palm Beach and even New York.``We get them from all over,'' said Charles Brunson, supervisor of the Opa-locka Police Department's vice, intelligence and narcotics unit. ``That's the word on the street: The best stuff is in Opa-locka, in the Triangle.'' Police have recently been stepping up arrests, trying to change the city's reputation.Brunson said that from Jan. 26 to April 21, 126 people were arrested for drug offenses all over the city.At least one Triangle resident agrees that money is needed to help young people and addicts. ``The addicts are just people that lost hope,'' said Kathy Hightower, 41, who grew up in the Triangle. Published Sunday, April 23, 2000, in the Miami Herald By Ajowa Nzinga Ifateyo aifateyo Copyright 2000 Miami Herald Related Articles:Top Drug Fighter Visits Opa-Locka 
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