Colorado antidrug effort draws upon `barn-raising' tradition. New program is keyed to getting every level of community involved
Colorado has launched an ambitious program to combat drug and alcohol abuse that organizers believe could become a national model. The drive attempts to combine the dollars and ideas of government, private industry, and local citizens in an old-fashioned ``barn-raising'' effort.
Many of the elements of the campaign are familiar: school curriculums, corporate dollars, celebrity testimonials, the involvement of church and civic groups. Yet initiators of the drive believe their approach is more comprehensive and involves a greater degree of participation from the private sector and local citizens than most antidrug campaigns in the country.
``I don't think anybody has done it on this scale before,'' asserts Colorado Gov. Roy Romer.
Colorado's program reflects the growing involvement of states in trying to fight substance abuse in the wake of the expanding scope of the problem.
In recent years, numerous states - including Massachusetts, Kentucky, Texas, and New Jersey - have launched initiatives that stress a more broad-based approach to dealing with alcohol and drugs. North Carolina, Missouri, and Alabama also are fashioning programs.
Most state efforts involve leadership from the governor or a blue-ribbon panel and enlistment of grass-roots support - from the support of everyone from teachers and business people to Rotarians and the local plumber.
``In the past, we looked at it as a law-enforcement or a treatment problem,'' says Nolan Jones, a criminal justice specialist with the National Governors Association. ``Now we're looking at it as an overall problem of citizens.''
A catalyst for Colorado's program was the availability of federal money as a result of drug-abuse legislation passed by Congress last year. But state political leaders, joined by some corporate chieftains, also wanted to tailor a program that would avoid duplication and galvanize local communities. They were prodded by some grim statistics: Colorado ranks among the top states in drug trafficking. Moreover, the number of heroin and cocaine users admitted to treatment centers in the state has been running at its highest level in seven years.