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The Daily Tar Heel

DARE Replaces Prevention Strategies

But critics of the youth drug prevention program are skeptical about whether the adjustments will enable the program to reduce drug use.

A recently released University of Michigan study found that at least half of all teens in the United States have tried illicit drugs, alcohol or tobacco by the time they have completed high school.

According to a press release from DARE, an organization that reaches out to such students, the new program will involve a more interactive approach to drug prevention. DARE officers will act as facilitators to role playing in the classroom to help students build higher levels of substance resistance.

DARE is one of the oldest and largest substance abuse prevention programs in the country. The new DARE program will have the same overall goal -- to reduce alcohol, tobacco and drug use, as well as prevent violence among teens.

DARE officials plan to work in conjunction with the University of Akron's Institute for Health and Social Policy to "incorporate the most up-to-date evidence and science-based strategies for substance abuse prevention," the press release stated.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the world's largest philanthropic health care organization, has also awarded the university a $13.7 million grant to fund a new "state-of-the-art substance abuse curriculum."

According to the release, the curriculum will initially concentrate on 80 high schools and 176 middle schools.

Jessica Hulsey, communications director for the project, said the program is in a position to be a success.

"DARE is in a unique position," she said. "It can be the vehicle to carry effective drug prevention in the United States."

Over the next three years, the University of Akron will evaluate the effectiveness of the new curriculum. If results prove beneficial, then the new program will be implemented nationwide in the spring of 2003.

But not everyone feels confident about the goals of the new program.

Mercer Sullivan, professor at Rutgers University School of Criminal Justice, said DARE has not proven to be beneficial in the long run.

"Repeated evaluations of DARE via respected scientific research have failed to show DARE as being effective."

Sullivan also discredits the newer program's ability to reach the children.

"I just don't (think) that they can do what they say they can do (because) the primary deliverers of the program are not educators," he said.

But DARE officials said they are confident the revamped program will be successful in the long run.

"We have a unique opportunity to affect drug prevention across the nation," Hulsey said. "(We) have put together something unique to make this the most successful (drug prevention) approach."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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