- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 29, 2004


President Bush, preparing to unveil an anti-drug strategy, yesterday championed his budget proposals to increase drug testing in schools, help more communities run prevention programs and pay for treatment through religious groups for more low-income addicts.

The administration is due to release its National Drug Control Strategy report tomorrow.

Mr. Bush previewed it in his weekly radio address but offered no sign that the report would contain any new initiatives or involve wholesale revamping.

Instead, he trumpeted gains in the anti-drug war that were outlined in a government survey of drug use among American teenagers released in December and described anti-drug proposals contained in the spending request he sent to Congress in February.

Those proposals include increasing funding to $23 million from the current $2 million for schools that want to use drug testing to expand early intervention programs, adding $10 million for local coalitions working on prevention efforts and doubling to $200 million the funding for the government’s “Access to Recovery” program that helps addicts afford professional care.

The drug-testing plan has drawn sharp criticism from some parents, school administrators and civil liberties activists.

Last year, the program funded testing in eight school districts, and Mr. Bush said drug testing has worked to cause declines in drug use.

“Random drug testing gives students a strong answer to the social pressure to try drugs,” he said. “It helps schools identify those using drugs so they can intervene with counseling and treatment before experiments turn into addictions.”

Mr. Bush also argued on behalf of the addict assistance program, funded at $100 million for the current year, which he said would involve a large role for religious charities.

“Because I know a good way to change a person’s behavior is to change their heart, faith-based treatment programs will always be an option,” he said.

The president also pledged continued vigilance by military and law enforcement personnel working on drug interdiction at the borders.

He cited an annual Department of Health and Human Services survey of eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders, released last year, that shows the progress made under his watch.

That survey found less use of many kinds of illicit drugs among high school students, especially for ecstasy and LSD. Overall, the survey showed an 11 percent drop in illegal drug use in the previous two years, slightly surpassing Mr. Bush’s goal of a 10 percent reduction.

“We have pursued an ambitious, focused strategy to cut demand for drugs at home, interdict supplies of drugs abroad and treat more addicts who seek help,” Mr. Bush said. “Our hard work is paying off. This year, we will expand our strategy so that we can make even greater progress in the fight against drugs.”

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