Macomb Daily: Congressman Levin learns value of drug prevention classes

Mar 26, 2006

With federal funding for drug education programs threatened, U.S. Rep. Sander Levin visited a Center Line school to "learn what this funding means."

   An hour later, he had his answer.

   "I think you've fortified (me) to go back and keep these programs going," the Royal Oak Democrat told 8th-graders at Center Line's Wolfe Middle School last week.

   Levin, who represents most of Macomb County, is an advocate for drug education in schools. He is among a host of congressmen and congresswomen hoping to salvage some $400 million for the state grants portion of the Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities program.

   The funding has been eliminated in President Bush's recommended federal budget for fiscal year 2007. The cut could cost Michigan nearly $13 million in funding, Levin said, including more than $470,000 received by the Macomb Safe and Drug-Free Schools Consortium.

   Levin visited Wolfe Middle School to observe a classroom session of "Program Alert," a drug awareness program taught as part of the health curriculum.

   The congressman listened as teacher Marah Brandimarte led a discussion on pressure kids face to use drugs.

   "Pressure comes from many different areas," Brandimarte told the students. "You might not even know you're being pressured ... It's going to be hard to say 'no' to somebody you look up to."

  Levin took a turn leading the discussion and asked the 8thgraders if they take anything away from the classroom sessions. Nearly all said they did.

   "You get to learn things with everybody else," Jessica Petrosky told the congressman. "It's not like it's one on one."

   Levin and more than 80 other representatives signed a letter to House leaders urging them to protect the funding for programs like the one in Center Line.

   "The SDFSC program is the backbone of youth prevention and intervention efforts and has contributed to the 19 percent decline in drug use over the past four years," the representatives wrote. "We have seen in our communities that the ... money is being used effectively and can demonstrate measurable results."

   Levin said his visit to Center Line had two related purposes: To see drug prevention efforts up close; and to gather information to help convince his Washington colleagues that funding for such programs needs to be a priority."

   "You have to prepare yourself to fight the battle," he said. "This helps us fight the battle of priorities." 

Photo Courtesy of the Macomb Daily staff photo by Craig Gaffield
Pictured Above: U.S. Rep. Sander Levin speaks with students Cory Blanchard, back facing camera, Dylan Woodward and Dylan Wutzke during a visit to Wolfe Middle School this week. Levin sat in on a health class during which drug abuse prevention was discussed.