Ohio candidate criticizes drop in D.A.R.E. funding

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — More money should be found to pay for D.A.R.E. and school resources police officers as Ohio's heroin's epidemic worsens, the Democratic candidate for attorney general said Tuesday as he criticized his opponent for a drop in funding in recent years.

The attorney general's office helped fund 380 D.A.R.E. and resource officers in 2010, a figure that has fallen to 228 this year, Democrat David Pepper said.

Pepper pledged to work with state lawmakers and local police to boost the numbers.

A record 1,914 Ohioans died of drug overdoses in 2012, including 680 heroin-related deaths, according to the most recent state Health Department records. Since 2007, more Ohioans have died of accidental drug overdoses than car crashes.

Pepper has criticized his opponent, GOP incumbent Mike DeWine, for responding slowly and ineffectively to the heroin crisis. DeWine has said the problem was unprecedented and he has launched numerous efforts to combat it.

Funding for the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, or D.A.R.E., dropped during the recession as schools and local police had less money available, DeWine's office said. Applications for funding also dropped from 2011-12 to the current funding year, the office said.

Another funding source, state license reinstatement fees, dropped 3 percent a year for the past four years, according to a report commissioned by DeWine last year that also found D.A.R.E. participation dropping as schools questioned its effectiveness.

The report concluded that consideration should be given to funding programs that are part of an overall approach to the drug problem, including merging prevention and treatment programs.

Late Tuesday, the DeWine campaign noted that Pepper voted to end the Cincinnati Police Department's D.A.R.E. program in 2002 as a city councilman and to return officers to street duty.

Pepper spokesman Peter Koltak said the vote was the council's attempt to deal with a crime wave and Pepper voted to restore D.A.R.E. funding a few months later.

Koltak said the issue isn't D.A.R.E. but rather is getting police officers in schools.