Bush official promotes anti-drug plan in Vermont

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(Host) White House Deputy Drug Czar Andrea Barthwell was in East Dorset on Monday to promote the president’s new anti-drug initiative. The program would create a voucher system to provide a wider choice of treatment programs, including faith-based programs.

VPR’s Susan Keese reports:

(Keese) Barthwell chose the birthplace of Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder Bill Wilson to promote the president’s “Access to Recovery” plan. Speaking from the porch of the historic building, she said she couldn’t think of a better place to deliver a message about recovery.

(Barthwell) “The president’s charge to us has been to find services to help people get in to recovery. He wants us to expand the ability of schools, workplaces, treatment centers and other community institutions to nurture more direct contact with people to help them get into recovery.”

(Keese) The program is part of a larger anti-drug campaign that includes prevention and enforcement. If funded by Congress, Access to Recovery, would provide $600 million to states over three years. Its centerpiece is a voucher system, competitively awarded to states that show the most need and create the best proposals.

Barthwell says it would give addicts more choices based on their individually determined needs. She also says the plan would allow faith based groups to compete for federal funds.

(Barthwell) “We think that there’s a role for the faith-based provider in providing people support early on after brief interventions, and also at the end, because they offer places for people to hold meetings, they offer mentoring to young people to support recovery in the community.”

(Keese) Also at the news conference was Vermont governor Jim Douglas. Barthwell congratulated Douglas on the ambitious drug abuse prevention, treatment and control program approved by the Legislature this spring. Douglas praised the bi-partisan effort he says made it possible:

(Douglas) “And I’m pleased that at a time of fiscal and economic restraint, the Legislature was able to authorize this program.”

(Keese) Speaker Walter Freed (R-Dorset) and Senator Mark Shepard (R-Bennington County) were also at the conference. But Senator Dick Sears (D-Bennington County), who was instrumental in guiding the initiative through the Legislature, said he hadn’t been told about the event.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese in East Dorset.

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