Drug prevention leaders talk fast to get grants

November 19, 1992|By Deidre Nerreau McCabe | Deidre Nerreau McCabe,Staff Writer

If you wanted to help fight the war on drugs in Anne Arundel County, you had to talk fast yesterday.

County Executive Robert R. Neall and Tom Andrews, the county health officer, gave leaders of five community groups just 10 minutes to convince them and a crowd of about 100 that their drug prevention programs were worthy of county grants of up to $50,000.

Participants at the executive's second "drug and alcohol summit" ranked a county police program aimed at getting residents of drug-riddled communities to trust beat patrolmen and turn in pushers as the best of the proposals.

The department, which already is operating the program in Freetown Village, a public housing community in Pasadena, asked for $47,800 to expand it to Meade Village and Pioneer City in West County, and eventually into other areas.

"It feels good to have it recognized as a top-notch program, said Deputy Chief Edgar F. Koch of the Technical Service Bureau, which supervises the program. "We knew it was top-notch, but now the citizens have recognized it, too."

The meeting at the People's Resource Center in Crownsville stemmed from a conference last June at which Mr. Neall challenged community leaders to develop innovative programs to fight substance abuse. He vowed then to find money for the best proposals.

Yesterday, Mr. Neall promised police, health officials, social workers and community activists at the meeting that he would "find some money" when he begins drafting his budget in February. He would not say, however, how much money or which programs would get funding.

Other proposals came from the Planning Action Committee (PAC), which wanted $50,000 to expand a counseling program, and People Against Child Abuse (PACA), which asked for $27,000 to expand its Raising Adolescent Pride (RAP) program.

In addition, Parents and Children Together (PACT) wanted $30,000 to offer parenting classes to 180 families in Glen Burnie and Brooklyn Park, and Big Brothers and Sisters asked for $50,000 to match 50 at-risk children in Glen Burnie and Severn with adult mentors.

Under the police program, officers have gone into Freetown Village to befriend youngsters ranging in age from 2 to 18 as well as their parents. They have thrown parties for the children and taken them to Orioles games. They helped their parents put new screens on their houses and feed their families.

Instead of driving through the community, police walk beats now.

The program has built an element of trust among police and the residents that has helped drive drug dealers from the community. Police said that emergency calls decreased by 15 percent in the first three months they were operating the program.

After the summit, participants said they were encouraged by the creative ideas and high level of commitment by all the groups.

"I think they're all great programs. We need to fund them all," said Barbara Gimperling, executive director of PACT.

"This [summit] is important because you realize this is everybody's problem. Before, people would think, 'It's not my problem. It doesn't touch me,' " said Deborah Mackell, a PAC volunteer from Shady Side. "But [substance abuse] is a problem everybody has to work on."

Similar summits may be scheduled to set priorities for services for other departments as well, Mr. Neall said. "We have to find solutions to address our problems despite [shrinking] resources," he said. "It looks like we've struck on a good format to do that."

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