Taking it to the streets

October 23, 1990

The war on drugs is a misnomer; it is in reality a series of skirmishes which, like geopolitical conflict, are waged on vastly different turfs. The struggles of a community where many of the kids are poor and drop out of school, for instance, are not the same as those in an upper-middle class enclave. Yet the anti-drug programs of federal and state governments always prescribe predictable, generic solutions that are most successful in giving lawmakers a chance to show their anti-drug ferocity.

Now comes an imminently sensible notion from Baltimore County -- that communities themselves are better informed than bureaucrats about their own substance-abuse problems and know the best way to solve them -- and a plan to give it a chance. Last week, the Rasmussen administration launched a community empowerment program which, using state substance abuse funds, will award seven $2,000 grants (one in each councilmanic district) to local community groups that come up with creative prevention programs geared specifically to local needs. Playgrounds might be funded, after-school programs or teen drop-in centers established -- the ideas are limited only by the imagination and commitment of the neighborhoods.

There are no guarantees, of course, that this approach will work, or that $2,000 will be enough even if it does. Still, it's a good bet that local folks will be better able than federal, state or county officials to resist quick fixes and spend this money wisely.

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