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Drug group aims to recruit members

February 18, 1997

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer, Charles Town

RANSON, W.Va. - At one time, the FOCUS annual meeting would have filled a conference room with 150 representatives from various organizations, churches, Neighborhood Watch groups and others concerned about drugs in the community.

But only about 20 people attended Tuesday night's meeting to hear about the anti-drug programs that Free Our Citizens of Unhealthy Substances conducted in 1996.

Karen Hoff, the new FOCUS executive director, said one of the things she and the staff will try to do this year is to bring former coalition members back into the fold.

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She said volunteers are needed from a wide spectrum of the community, especially to work with the youth and family team and the healthy workplace team.

Hoff said she and the staff will work one-on-one with various organizations, businesses and others to get them to send representatives to FOCUS meetings.

The group has been criticized in the past by some who believed it was spending too much money on salaries and benefits and not enough on prevention programs.

At Tuesday night's meeting, the FOCUS coalition income statement showed that the group spent $365,600 in 1996.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provided a $326,500 grant and the National Institute of Justice gave the program a $39,651 grant.

About $116,700 of the funds went to salaries for four full-time and two part-time workers and another $30,000 funded their benefits.

FOCUS President the Rev. John Alfriend said the money spent on staff was a good investment for the community.

"When we began, drugs were taking over our community," Alfriend said. "We've not been able to eliminate all drugs of course, but I believe we've put a dent in it."

FOCUS officials said the work done by staff members has lead to the creation of several programs and events that are working to ease the drug problem.

One of the major changes in 1996 was a move away from funding grassroots initiatives and toward addressing policy issues aimed at substance abuse prevention, she said.

FOCUS staff worker Justine Beck Rose said that a September 1996 conference brought students together to discuss problems they face because of the pressure to try alcohol and drugs.

Other work is being done at Jefferson County schools and at Frederick County, Va., schools to train staff and students on how to help others deal with anger and violence.

FOCUS staff member Diane C. McCoy said that FOCUS is working on ways to reduce drunken driving, including having a uniform time for bars to close.

Bars in Maryland and Virginia close at 2 a.m., but some bars in West Virginia stay open until 4 a.m., she said.

She said that causes a problem, not only for police officers in Jefferson County, but also for agencies in the surrounding states.

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