DARE is reaching kids on drug use
As a Baltimore County police officer who teaches the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program to sixth-grade students, I would like to respond to the letter from Robin A. Tomechko of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Maryland ("Drug education, taught by a friend," Sept. 4).
Ms. Tomechko states that "parents and teachers have recently been chagrined to learn that the [DARE] program doesn't seem to be working."
She refers to a study conducted at the University of Kentucky and recently written up in a journal of the American Psychiatric Association, which found that "the DARE program has no long-term effect on substance abuse."
Ms. Tomechko goes on to refer to another "equally rigorous study" conducted in 1993 with children in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America program. This study was conducted by Public/Private Ventures (PPV).
While Ms. Tomechko refers to both studies, she doesn't give much information about how they were conducted and gives only the findings of the survey conducted by PPV.
The Kentucky study tracked 1,000 sixth-graders, revisiting them 10 years after they participated in the DARE program.
It found that 23 percent smoked half a pack of cigarettes a day in the month before the follow-up (77 percent did not), 30 percent had used alcohol at least once a week in the past year (70 percent did not), 46 percent had used marijuana at least once in the past year and 24 percent used other drugs such as cocaine.
In my opinion, such results 10 years later reflect a long-term effect from the DARE program.
Ms. Tomechko says, "The two studies hold a lesson about the difference between aiming a program at a problem and aiming it at a child" and that "police officers telling kids about drugs doesn't seem to work, but regular folks, simply sharing their friendship, works better than most people realize."
But the DARE program is aimed at both the child and the problem. In Baltimore County it is taught to approximately 9,000 students each year. We educate children about a problem (substance abuse and violence) that has a negative impact on them.
In addition to providing an anti-drug, anti-violence message to our youth, DARE officers serve as role models and mentors.
Ms. Tomechko stereotypes police officers as being separate and apart from "regular folk." As a police officer for the last 25 years, I've never considered myself anything but "regular folk."
In promoting the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program, Ms. Tomechko found it necessary to be critical of the DARE program.
She should promote the Big Brothers Big Sisters program on its own merits, rather than resorting to putting out someone else's light to let her own shine through.
In recent years, DARE has had its critics. Nevertheless, to the best of my knowledge, DARE has not criticized other child-oriented organizations.
Maybe that's because DARE is really focused on its mission to our youth, not on what other programs are doing.
Gary Gephardt, Baltimore
The writer is a member of the Baltimore County police DARE Unit.
Bill Bradley leads the field for president
American voters have a special and historic opportunity to elect a candidate for president who is exceptionally well-qualified for the office both by virtue of his political experience and service and his exemplary character.
This candidate is Bill Bradley, who served with distinction as U.S. senator from New Jersey for three consecutive terms.
While most people think first of Mr. Bradley as the remarkable college and professional basketball player that he was, many do not realize the power of his intellect, the exceptional strength of his character and the breadth and depth of his contribution as a political servant.
Mr. Bradley has repeatedly demonstrated that his words and actions are governed by what he believes, after careful study, is in the best interests of the country -- rather than by what the polls say is popular.
Since he left the Senate in 1996, Bill Bradley has been anything but idle. He has continued to study and travel and think, striving to find ways to make our political process more responsible and less harnessed to special interests.
Bill Bradley's recent book, "Time Present, Time Past," provides full and fair treatment of issues past and present and gives ample evidence of the author's clear thinking and depth of understanding.
When you combine these qualities with his character and deep compassion for people Mr. Bradley emerges as one of the most outstanding presidential candidates in our history.
Redmond Finney, Upperco
Fair and equal media coverage is critical to campaign reform
My compliments on The Sun's editorial "Fresh faces, new ideas" (Sept. 16), which noted the "serious bid" some Republican nominees are making for office in the city's Nov. 2 general election.
That editorial aptly warned that "voters who want meaningful change should not limit their choices to Democrats."
This call for careful consideration of candidates from both political parties carries with it obligations for candidates, political parties -- and the local media.
The Maryland Republican Party is proud of the steps we've taken after our disappointments in the November 1998 elections.
We are committed to expanding our party and recently passed a resolution that allows independents to vote in the Republican presidential primary next March.
The party recently moved into a new headquarters in Annapolis, just a block from the State House. We also have a state-of-the-art Web page.
However, this pales in comparison to the courage and commitment of our candidates in Baltimore's general election.
Many have been successful in the private sector and active in community organizations. All exhibit extraordinary commitment to the city and the political process. They provide city voters with the choice of a two-party system.
Republican candidates will address issues that city residents talk about: crime, open air drug markets, a bloated city government, privatization of some city services, the crisis in city schools, the flight to suburbia and the loss of the city's economic base.
The Sun has editorialized in the past about a system awash in money and has called for campaign reform ("The cynical riddle of money in politics," Sept. 17).
But calls for reform are based on the questionable presumption that there will be fair and balanced coverage of all candidates.
Many who oppose the suggested reforms cite the First Amendment and the right of political expression. What they are really saying is that the only way Republicans can get fair coverage from a media with strong liberal bias is to buy it.
The result is an impasse on reform and a political process in which political candidates beg for money continually and donors expect political influence.
The Republican candidates in this city election cannot possibly match their Democratic opponents in fund-raising. They are at the mercy of Baltimore's media.
If the media are truly concerned about abuses of the process, they must make every effort to grant access to underfinanced candidates.
They should go beyond the obligatory one story to a series of debates, equal front-page coverage and television and radio interviews with candidates.
Perhaps the first step toward reform can come from the media itself, if they make a concentrated effort to afford fair and full exposure to all political candidates. In the end, the voters will benefit because they will be able to make an informed decision.
Richard D. Bennett, Annapolis
The writer is the chairman of the Maryland Republican Party.
The myriad needs of the homeless
At Health Care for the Homeless, we have learned that the problems of homeless, ill and uninsured individuals really begin when they leave the hospital. Quandaries about where they will stay and how they will get medication are often as burdensome as their medical problems.
Twenty or 30 times a week, hospital workers contact us seeking placement of the sick and indigent. In conjunction with the city and two participating shelters, we operate two modest convalescent care facilities, with a total of 22 beds.
But our resources are far from adequate to meet the need.
The men's facility is in an old building that is not handicapped-accessible or air-conditioned and neither program has 24-hour medical staff.
Another complication patients face is their difficulty qualifying for Medicaid. For a single low-income adult to be eligible in Maryland for Medicaid, he or she must have a permanent disability or impairment so severe as to meet the Social Security Administration's definition of disability.
Testing positive for, or even being sick with HIV, for example, does not automatically qualify a Marylander for Medicaid.
Only the sickest patients can qualify -- and get treatment, medication and inpatient hospital care covered by insurance.
Maryland has two other programs, the Maryland Pharmacy Assistance Program (MPAP) and the Maryland Primary Care Program (MPC), which provide incomplete benefits. MPAP provides prescription coverage to low-income, uninsured citizens.
MPC provides primary medical care to those who qualify for MPAP, but is available only at participating clinics and does not include hospital care.
Neither program is available on an urgent basis; the application process often takes more than 30 days.
The health care delivery system should be restructured to prevent further suffering by those who have not yet qualified for state or federal benefits, but have problems such as homelessness or poverty that prevent them from making a swift recovery.
Ways to improve their situation could include:
Expanding Medicaid to include immediate eligibility for catastrophic illness, as well as coverage for diseases or conditions likely to worsen without treatment.
Creating a number of full-service convalescent care centers where people without stable housing or support systems can stay following hospitalization or illness. The centers could offer nursing and social work services.
Working for universal health insurance for all Marylanders.
The Maryland Citizens Health Initiative, a coalition to create such a system, has been meeting the past eight months.
The group grew out of citizens' frustrations with managed care, the growing numbers of uninsured and the need for all Marylanders to have access to quality care.
Lauren Siegel, Baltimore
The writer is a social worker for Health Care for the Homeless Inc.
Simple living in a slower lane
The article about Kirk and Sue Nevin ("Drought beaten, drip by drip" Sept. 8) shows them to be exemplars of a movement called "voluntary simplicity," a phrase coined in 1936 by Richard Gregg, who was describing a way of life marked by a "balance between inner and outer growth."
This image of simple living may begin a trend for people who are feeling stressed, who want to get out of the rat race and are looking for more satisfying lifestyles.
Voluntary simplicity has been defined as a non-consumer lifestyle based on being and becoming, not on having.
This move to simplicity has its roots in ancient Greece, where philosophers stressed material moderation and an emphasis on the intellectual life.
In all the great religions, we also see calls to simpler lives with emphasis on the greater good and personal fulfillment.
Mohandas Gandhi, for instance, said: "Civilization consists, not in the multiplication of our wants, but in the deliberate and voluntary reduction of wants. This alone promotes real happiness and contentment."
A sense of ecological awareness, which acknowledges the interdependence of people and resources is central to voluntary simplicity. The Nevins call themselves the caretakers of the land, not "landowners."
Their resourcefulness and mindfulness of conservation (even of water) helped them through our recent drought. And their outlook shows a strong sense of social responsibility -- in a culture where most of us have relatively isolated and self-centered ways of life.
Taking up a materially simple way of life also helps clear away external clutter, which provides space for us to grow both psychologically and spiritually.
The Nevins' way of life is inspirational. Although most of us cannot embrace it, we can give pause to our endless desires to buy, to want and to possess -- and become aware of the impact of our consumption patterns on other people and the Earth.
The increasingly serious problems we are all facing may push us in a direction such as that of Voluntary Simplicity. The Nevins have shown us one way.
D. A. Mednick Towson
The Sun's articles on Denver's water conservation efforts and on the Nevin family of Whitehall were timely contributions to the dialogue on water use.
In Harford County, the average water consumption per person is nearly 200 gallons a day. But because of their wise management techniques, the Nevin family uses just three gallons per person per day -- and still has plenty of water left to irrigate crops on their small farm.
Not everyone can live a rural life like the Nevin family, but clearly better water conservation practices are needed.
The article on Denver showed that public expenditures on sewer and sewage treatment capacity can be contained with wiser water usage ("Everyday conservation," Aug. 28). Marylanders should pay closer attention.
In the 1980s, I found the state plumbing board very resistant to allowing the sale of 1.5-gallon flush toilets that would reduce waste water volume, although there has since been some progress in that area.
What is really needed is a dual tank system on new toilets, so that little water is used to flush liquid waste but a larger volume is available for solid waste.
Vigorous promotion of water conserving washing machines and dishwashers could also reduce the amount of "gray water" (non-toilet water waste) that is flushed into our sewage systems.
Other steps people can take to improve water conservation include: Installing aerators in shower heads.
Collecting rain water to use in washing cars, watering lawns and gardens and even bathing and washing hair. Rain water is free and can be collected in barrels fed by modified gutter systems that are available inexpensively.
Promptly fixing leaks with washerless faucets and spigots. A slow drip from a leaking faucet can waste thousands of gallons of water per year.
I hope The Sun will continue to publish articles on this subject. Maybe that would stimulate slow-moving politicians and bureaucrats to act.
Christopher C. Boardman, Joppa
Sun's reading series puts spotlight on good news, too
In her recent letter, "A principal who exemplifies what our schools could become" (Sept. 13), Jo Ann Donovan of Berlin notes that "Reading by 9" reporters often focus on the "negative aspects of reading classes" and prescribe "quick-fix solutions."
I don't think she is reading this series very closely.
The articles on City Springs Elementary School ("City Springs pupils show newfound skills," May 30) and Lyndhurst Elementary did anything but simplify the difficulties of teaching reading.
They described caring principals, dedicated teachers and joyous successful students -- along with less happy and successful students.
I read every "Reading by 9" article I see, and I find that the education reporters write realistically, with empathy for everyone involved -- students, parents, teachers, administrators.
But the main point of Ms. Donovan's letter was to praise the article about Tom Bowman, principal of the Thomas Johnson School of Baltimore City ("One proud principal," Sept. 5). I couldn't agree more.
What a joy it would be to work with an idealist whose ideals have held up even after almost 20 years in the business.
But since the article was under the "Reading by 9" banner, why didn't it say more about how Mr. Bowman and his school handle beginning readers?
What methods does he encourage kindergarten and first grade teachers to use? What materials do they have? What special training in beginning reading has he offered his teachers?
What home support does the school offer for first graders? What about class sizes?
"Reading by 9" articles about specific schools, teachers and administrators should include details about their beginning reading programs.
Sara M. Porter, Jarrettsville
QUESTION OF THE MONTH
This month, we asked readers to talk about the issues they would like the new mayor of Baltimore to address.
Readers' thoughts on mayor's agenda
First and foremost, the new mayor must address drugs and the violence associated with them.
Enacting a stop-and-frisk law would allow police officers to make it very uncomfortable for drug peddlers who come here to ply their trade.
Our residents can point out these creeps to the police.
Having been a resident of Mount Vernon for 12 years, I have watched helplessly knowing the police have their hands tied.
The police do a wonderful job, but with fewer restraints they could do even better.
Howard S. Mangam, Baltimore
The new mayor should address the trash problem in the city.
I'm glad we have twice-a-week pickup, but the trash collectors leave too much on the ground and they seem never to pick up what they drop.
The people are also at fault, because many of them put out the trash after the truck has gone by.
We need to get word to residents that they will be fined if they put out the trash out before their scheduled collection day.
June Kemp, Baltimore
The most serious problem facing the new mayor is the deficit.
This is caused entirely by the city's inexcusably inadequate state funding.
The first thing the new mayor must do is use whatever he can muster to compel the governor and General Assembly to multiply state funding to the city, no strings attached.
Harry E. Bennett Jr., Baltimore
The following issues should be addressed by the new mayor:
Tackle crime. Ensure police protection. Enforce police respect for citizens. Encourage police to communicate with communities and neighborhood watches by setting up bimonthly meetings with neighborhood residents.
Offer facilities for youth recreation. Provide jobs for youth during the summer and after school.
Eliminate boarded-up houses. Provide funds to help elderly and low-income residents repair dilapidated homes. Provide bright lights in residential areas.
Encourage small business owners to maintain their businesses -- especially minorities.
Make schools safer.
Maxine M. Johnson, Baltimore