Posted: January 26th, 2023
In the United States, Project D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) is one of the most widely used substance abuse prevention programs targeted at school-aged youths (Birkeland, S., Murphy-Graham, E., & Weiss, C. 2005). In recent years, D.A.R.E. has been the country’s largest single school-based prevention program in terms of federal expenditures, with an average of three quarters of a billion dollars spent on its provision annually (Birkeland, S., Murphy-Graham, E., & Weiss, C. 2005). Although its effectiveness in preventing substance use has been called into question, its application in our nation’s schools remains extensive (Birkeland, S., Murphy-Graham, E., & Weiss, C. 2005). Many participants in this program are not helped at all. And in spite of the popularity of the program, there is still an increase in drug abuse in schools.
Programs are rated based on certain criteria that show their effectiveness (McDavid, J. C., Huse, I., & Hawthorn, L. R. L. 2013). The program rating indicates how well a program is performing, so the public can see how effectively tax dollars are being spent (McDavid, J. C., Huse, I., & Hawthorn, L. R. L. 2013). Programs receiving the ‘Ineffective’ rating are not using tax dollars effectively (McDavid, J. C., Huse, I., & Hawthorn, L. R. L. 2011). Ineffective programs have been unable to achieve results due to a lack of clarity regarding the program’s purpose or goals, poor management, or some other significant weakness (McDavid, J. C., Huse, I., & Hawthorn, L. R. L. 2011).
Some examples of ineffective programs are the Federal Perkins Loans from the Department of Education, and the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant from the Department of Health and Human Services ( The Federal Perkins Loans provides funding to colleges and universities to make low-interest loans available to needy students. Loans are made from institutional revolving funds consisting of Federal contributions, institutional matching funds, and student repayments. This program is ineffective because is it redundant and duplicative, given the broad availability of need-based, subsidized, relatively low-interest loans through the two larger student loan programs (Federal Family Education Loans and Ford Direct Student Loans). These other programs provide nearly $80 billion in new annual loan volume, while Perkins Loans provide only $1 billion. Another reason it is ineffective is because the statutory program funding allocation formula does not accurately reflect changes in the population of needy students. The current formula allocates aid largely on the basis of past institutional award levels, benefiting the schools that have participated in the program the longest.
The Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant is deemed an ineffective program for a number of reasons. Firstly, no independent evaluation of the program has been completed. They did an evaluability assessment to determine the feasibility of conducting an independent evaluation but never conducted one. Secondly, the formula for distributing funds does not correspond with the prevalence of substance abuse. Thus, an individual’s chance of receiving Block Grant funded services varies by State. The formula is mandated by the Public Health Service Act. However, states target funds to appropriate populations, and the maintenance of effort requirement guards against supplantation of funds. Thirdly, existing annual measures provide information primarily on outputs, such as numbers served and satisfaction with the agency’s technical assistance, and on attitudes toward drug use. The program is beginning to report data on substance use. These are major drawbacks and prevent the program from actually doing what it was created to do.
If these programs were mandated to have independent evaluations, then they may have shown earlier that they were not effective. This would help the program designers understand where the problem is early, and how they can try to fix it. These evaluations are to be used as a measurement of the success of the program. They are supposed to provide the designers with the outcomes and help them see what the strengths and weaknesses are of the program.
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