- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 29, 2001

One of the Drug Enforcement Administration's least known programs a demand-reduction plan begun nearly 15 years ago continues to be one of the agency's most successful in its continuing fight against illicit narcotics.
The program, created in 1986, responded to the widespread belief that both law enforcement and drug prevention were necessary components in any comprehensive attack against this country's continuing drug problem.
Its goals are to provide timely, accurate and persuasive information to various audiences to build support for effective drug enforcement; to educate the public about the dangers of drugs and the effects of drug abuse on the nation; and to reach community leaders, parents, teachers, counselors and employees to educate them on drug prevention and education programs.
"Dealing with criminals as we do all the time, this program offers us a chance to reach out to that segment of the population we don't normally see," said Catherine Shaw, the DEA's chief of congressional and public affairs, who oversees the demand-reduction program. "It gives entry to the positive aspects of what we do, showing that we are also committed to prevention."
Ms. Shaw described the program's $1 million budget as "modest" but said it "pays a lot of dividends," giving DEA agents across the country the opportunity to work with community coalitions, businesses, parents, churches "and the kids."
Ms. Shaw said that in each of the DEA's 22 field divisions, a special agent is designated as the "demand reduction coordinator," whose role is to provide leadership and support to local agencies and organizations as they develop drug prevention and education programs.
She said the coordinators specifically tailor their programs to the localities where they are assigned, adding that the needs of each community differ, based largely on its drug problems and its population.
"Our people have expertise in a lot of different areas, and that is a strength of the program," she said, adding that developing positive role models for children in the communities is a major goal.
As DEA agents, she said, the coordinators bring a "unique perspective to the drug prevention arena" because they have a clear understanding of the overall drug situation and a broad range of experience in working with other law enforcement agencies, community leaders, educators and employers.
This expertise, Ms. Shaw said, makes the agency's demand reduction program stand out from other federal programs that address substance abuse.
In the fiscal year 2000, the DEA program focused on four main objectives: raising public awareness, providing support for parents, educating school-age children and establishing drug-free work environments.
Ms. Shaw said the program is committed to establishing public awareness education for opinion and community leaders and making those leaders aware of the current drug threat and the links between drugs, crime and violence.
She noted that DEA Administrator-designate Asa Hutchinson, who is awaiting confirmation by the full Senate, has said he believes in the demand reduction program.
"The credibility that the DEA agent is able to bring to the program and the community is tremendous," she said. "It's not like a cause of the moment for us, since we are a single-mission agency. The agents have arrested traffickers and seen the devastation drugs can cause, bringing first-hand law enforcement experience to communities who don't know what DEA does."
"Putting a human face on DEA is always a positive thing, and the program is very inspiring to us; reminding us why we do this," she said.
Ms. Shaw said making sure that "good kids stay drug-free" is a major goal, with much of the program's focus aimed at educating parents about the dangers of illegal drugs, heightening their awareness about emerging drug trends and equipping them to teach children life skills and resistance education.
She said coordinators in nearly every division provide parent training for local communities, often through local Boys and Girls Clubs, schools and faith-based organizations.
The demand reduction program reaches millions of children and school administrators, principals, teachers and coaches with specific drug education programs and materials.
The program supplies schools and other youth-based organizations with drug prevention videos and publications and provides accurate resources to school administrators to help them formulate effective anti-drug programs, she said.

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