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Federal funding running out for Hart drug-prevention program

Posted: April 19, 2013 6:32 p.m.
Updated: April 19, 2013 6:32 p.m.
 

With a federal funding resource tapped, Hart district officials this week said they will have to get creative to continue a program aimed at reducing drug abuse in local schools, at least in the short term.

Until recently, funding for the William S. Hart Union High School District Comprehensive Alcohol and Drug Reduction and Education program has come from a federal grant through the Department of Justice.

But that grant money is set to run out at the end of the month, according to Kathy Hunter, the district’s coordinator of student services.

This means the district must find another source of money to continue the program.

In the short term, the district can bank on one of its credit cards for funding, according to Susan Hoerber, the district’s chief financial officer.

The district has accumulated approximately 24 million “points” by using its American Express credit card to buy things such as textbooks and computers, Hoerber said Friday.

The district will donate those points to the WiSH Education Foundation, which, as a nonprofit organization, can redeem them for cash.

Hoerber said the district’s accumulated points add up to about $24,000.

While the cost of the program tends to vary from year to year, depending on enrollment and the number of tests issued, Hunter said the program cost about $28,000 last year.

“We have enough points to take us through the rest of next year,” Hunter said Thursday. “So we have time to actually look at funding sources.”

Those funding sources could be new grants, either state or federal, or private donations to the WiSH Foundation, Hunter said.

Hoerber also said the district will plan to use its American Express card for future purchases to rack up more points that can be donated to the foundation.

The program, created in 2009, is meant to be an intervention tool to help students who may be struggling with drug abuse, providing an option other than disciplining them, according to Hunter.

Hunter also said the program provides an “out” for students by giving them another reason to refuse drugs offered them.

Enrollment in the program is voluntary and open to all students in the Hart district, Hunter said.

As part of the program, students consent to random drug testing and, should they test positive, are given information on counseling or support systems available to them.

The company contracted to provide drug-testing services for the program, MEDTOX Scientific Inc., was recently bought out by another firm, Hunter said.

As a result, the district has reopened its search for a vendor, Hunter said.

Hunter said 2,093 students, close to 10 percent of the district’s population, enrolled in the program this year. The initial enrollment of the program in 2009 was about 457 students, Hunter said.

Rancho Pico Junior High School had the most students enrolled last year, with 400, followed by Saugus High School with 307 and Arroyo Seco Junior High School with 274.

The district administered 1,146 drug tests last year, 123 of which came back positive, Hunter said.

The vast majority of the positive tests, 96, were for marijuana. Another 24 students tested positive for amphetamines, though those tests can be triggered by ingredients in some common prescription drugs, Hunter said.

The other three tests were for methamphetamine.

This ratio of positive tests is fairly standard for the program, though Hunter said in past years students have also tested positive for “harder core” drugs such as cocaine.

Lmoney@signalscv.com
661-287-5525
On Twitter @LukeMMoney

 

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