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Monday, January 19,2009

New year, new policies

by Karen Cassidy

How much did Drug Abuse Resistance Education — or D.A.R.E, the ominous acronym we all learned back in 5th grade — help you to avoid drugs and alcohol throughout your life?


A little? Not at all? Don't even remember what it stands for?


Well, you're not alone. A local program called the Ingham Change Initiatve held a panel discussion Monday morning at the Lansing Center to unveil its study of social support programs and institutions and their impact on young people of color. Some programs, according to ICI — like D.A.R.E. — are useless.

Already a year in the planning stage, the ICI has gathered data on issues affecting health, education, employment and economics, child welfare, the justice system and how the media impacts perceptions of youth of color, with the goal of streamlining support programs.

“America is not a level playing field and the Ingham Change Initiative is a call to action to save men of color,” ICI Chairman Dr. Clarence Underwood Jr. said.

Willard Walker, of Pubic Policy Associates, began by asking the question that probably everyone was wondering: “How do we use policy and data to drive programs?”

As the ICI gathers data on programs, its goal is to eliminate funding for support programs that no longer work and make sure those funds are put toward new programs or effective programs already in place.

One of the biggest concerns of the group’s findings is the high school dropout rate for young men of color.

“To my recollection the 30 to 35 percent drop out rate has not changed in the past 15 years,” co-chairman Larry Meyer, a former Lansing City Councilman, said.

Following the presentations the crowd was given the opportunity to ask questions. Lansing resident Victoria Carter asked, “What’s next?” and further inquired if the group was going to begin implementing programs based on its findings.

Dr. Hiram Fitzgerald, chair of the media work group, explained that there are currently “many” programs in place, and one of the goals of the ICI is to eliminate myths and funding for programs that no longer work.


He used D.A.R.E., a program offered in elementary schools to teach kids to resist drugs, as an example.

“The program is still being funded but there is a lack of evidence it has any impact on the kids,” Fitzgerald said.

Lansing Police Chief Mark Alley also acknowledged the importance of a high school education with a better life outcome, as only 11 percent of men in the prison system have any education past high school.

“It’s a great step when we have cops acknowledging a diploma with a positive life,” said Randy Bell of the Michigan State University Extension.

The next step for ICI is to continue gathering data. The group plans to announce its findings in hopes of community support to enforce new policy.

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