Drug Prevention Group Gets PNM Grant for Schools
August 28, 2002
Narconon Rio Grande Inc., a Rio Rancho-based nonprofit drug prevention organization, recently received $7,500 from the Public Service Company of New Mexico Foundation.
The grant will help the organization expand its drug and alcohol prevention services to schools in Bernalillo and Sandoval counties.
"PNM took a look at our program, liked it and wanted to help further valuable services in our community," Joshuah P. Bencke, Narconon executive director said.
Narconon is an international organization with centers around the world. According to its Web site, William Benitez, an inmate of Arizona State Prison, founded the Narconon program in 1966 after reading a book by L. Ron Hubbard.
Benitez used the principles of increasing one's abilities he learned in the Hubbard book to help himself and other inmates end their addictions to heroin, the Web site said.
The Narconon network is made up of over 100 rehabilitation and drug prevention centers worldwide. It claims a success rate of 76 percent for recovery of drug addiction at its rehabilitation centers.
According to a release from the Rio Rancho chapter, 13.7 percent of children in New Mexico between the ages of 12 and 17 have used illicit drugs according to a survey conducted by The Substance Abuse and Mental Services Administrations.
An estimated 8,000 students from grades 2 through 12 will be reached through the program in New Mexico. In addition to drug use, it also addresses alcohol and tobacco use, the release said.
Presentations are done by Narconon staffers who were trained by affiliates from the Narconon International training center in Oklahoma, Bencke said.
"Our (presentation) staff are recovered addicts who have been on the other side of drugs," he said. "(Discussions are) actually real to the kids since (the presenters) are talking from their own backgrounds and knowledge instead of from a book."
The grant money will provide drug prevention and education to schools that would not have had these programs due to lack of funding, Bencke said.
"We will go to whatever schools are interested," he said. "We haven't actually been able to operate at our full capacity and now we are able to do that. Ideally, we can get into every school and at this point just actually getting there is not limited anymore. We have received requests (for presentations at schools); however, we also go directly to the schools and offer our services. If they don't have funds for drug prevention programs PNM has made it possible to implement programs in their schools."
Presentations vary depending on grade and what health teachers and principals want the organization to focus on.
"The teachers will have a good idea as to what kids at their school are doing. It depends on what the educators want. We also hold an open forum for kids and allow them to ask questions about specific drugs," he said.
Bencke said the type of drugs the presenters focus on varies.
"It kind of depends on socio-economic position," Bencke said. "It can vary from school to school and from one community to another. (The discussions) look at alcohol and, of course, marijuana, ecstasy, and methamphetamines and in some areas cocaine."
Bencke said the discussions cover what each drug does to the body and the mind instead of using scare tactics sometimes employed by parents.
"What we do is prevent problems from happening," Bencke said. "What we're able to see is that (the program) does make a difference and these kids are staying off drugs. Those who are experimenting will stop and kids will have some real information so that they can make smart decisions."