Colonie to take a hard look at D.A.R.E.

In the coming weeks, Colonie Supervisor Paula Mahan said she plans to meet with officers involved in the D.A.R.E. program to discuss whether to keep the $400,000 program in the future.

We need to determine what is the best approach [to drug abuse resistance education], said Mahan.

According to town Comptroller Craig Blair, the $400,000 that the town pays to operate the program goes entirely toward the salaries and benefits of the four officers who teach the 10-week D.A.R.E., or Drug Abuse Resistance Education, program in the Town of Colonie. One of those officers is also a South Colonie Central School District school resource officer. The district pays $40,000 for that service.

Mahan said that it is really important to maintain a partnership between the police department and the school district, but the town will be looking into whether the program is the most effective way to keep students away from drugs.

Colonie Police Chief Steven Heider said the program has a real value to the students and the community.

"The purpose of D.A.R.E is to prepare these kids to conscientiously say no," Heider said. "The hope is to teach them about it before they're exposed to it."

D.A.R.E. was founded in Los Angeles in 1983. Topics covered in the program include: alcohol abuse, self-esteem, gangs, drugs, personal safety and more.

While funding for some of the items handed out in the program, including key chains and pencils, primarily comes from fundraisers, sponsors and community events, tools used in the program, such as workbooks, have been funded in previous years by federal and state sources. However, faced with a tight budget this year, the state cut the $1,000 funding for the workbooks, according to Heider.

Despite the loss of $1,000 in state funding, the town decided to continue the program, which is taught in all elementary schools in the town, with an abridged version used in the junior and senior high schools. The program takes up one period, one day per week (for each student), for 10 weeks.

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