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Centers Aid Dope Users

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(SIXTH OF TEN ARTICLES) (Distributed by Copley News Service) SAN FRANCISCO- They are running away from something, usually with a chemical, sometimes with their feet. And they may not end up where they hope. "What we are talking about is the destruction of a kid's life," s a y s o n e full-time counselor to youth with drug problems. "And while it would be nice if we could say that all the destruction resulted from the inpul; of the chemical . . . destruction usually comes in the form of what happens to a kid at school or in his relationships with parents and the community." Drug experimentation can no longer be dismissed as a Haight-Ashbury curiosity or a Harlem problem; it is now a hometown phenomenon. In an effort to minimize the destruction, hundreds of communities in the United States are forming new institutions that are anything but institutional: Hot Line, Pot Line, Dope Line. Project Reach, Project Assist, Project Place. Crisis House, Awareness House. Genesis, Dawn, Third Way. Young people cali at these centers, drop in, and in some cases live there. The purpose: to "rap," to "get it out and deal with it," or- in straight language- to talk with someone who will listen. Most of the projects are aimed at white middle-class youths, who live in suburbia or have run away f r o m there. Most of them offer informal counseling rather than formal treatment, and few, if any, report those seeking help to the pólice. Some law-enforcement officials criticize the new centers 011 the ground that "white, middle-class parents are not willing to subject their own kids to law-enforcement channels." B u t other officials- who feel that law enforcement alone cannot handle drug abuse- support the rise of a nonpunitive approach. "If we start throwing all the kids experimenting here into lines are designed to fill a void- to offer an outlet for confidential help. "We try to function as an unbiased listener," says Dr. Dale Garrell, director of the Children's Hospital Hot Line, the first in the Los Angeles área. Instead of offering "simple pat answers" or "Ann Landers solutions," Dr. Garrell says, "we try to serve as a catalyst to help callers find their own answers and make their own decisions." Like many people reaching out to young people with drug p r o b 1 e m s , Dr. Garrell stresses that "drugs are not the real problem." Only about 10 per cent of the 20,000 calis his hot line has received in two years concern drug problems specifically. The rest deal with boy-girl relations, family conflicts, school problems, loneliness - "all the things j that adolescents are really concerned about." At least 95 hot lines, according to Dr. Garrell, are presently operating in the East, Midwest, and West of the United States. But a fair number have been forced to J close because of lack of use I or community support. Experienced hot-line I sonnel suggest some basic criteria for a successful hot line: - Confidentiality. The people who need help I will not cali, say hot-line staff members, if they suspect that I pólice, other kids, or parents I will find out. -Staff training. A professional degree is not I a necessity (and is perhaps a liability) for a hot-line 1 er. But some training by j experienced switchboard staff j in listening and responding to j a crisis situation is essential. - Understanding youth I ture. Some switchboards report I that young people themselves I may be the best hot-line I eners. -Community support and I resources. In addition to firm financial support, hot lines need a list I o f reliable references - I legal, medical, religious and I Juvenile Hall, we'ü be pretty busy," says Edward Kreins, chief of pólice inPleasant HUI, Calif., an East Bay suburb of San Francisco. In Oakland, Calif., where juvenile drug arrests have risen from 9 in 1965 to 548 in 1969, District Attorney Lowell Jensen explains the dilemma that faces law-enforcement officials : "If rigorously enforced, the law would slow down drug abuse. But we don't want a large segment of our younger generation to pay too high a price for something that is really more a social than a criminal problem." Pointing out that 50 per cent of the juvenile arrests in California now are in the runaway and drug-abuse area, George Smith of the California Youth Authority, says: "These kids could be better handled by some other agency in the community, without going through the court or correctional system where they piek up delinquent attitudes." One of the first nonpunitive approaches to youth alienation and drug experimentation was the telephone "hot line" or switchboard. Hot weltare professionals available in case of emergency. Without this backup support, a hot line's value is limited. In fact, says Dr. Garrell, "One of the most important runetions of a hot line may be to point out the deficit in community resources f o r youth." Some hot lines have e volved into drop-in centers, halfway houses, or free medical clinics. At Boston's Project Place, which opened a hot line three years ago, a sign indicates the kinds of requests for help: "A is for Runaway, B is for Bad Trip, C is for Crash Pad, D is for Medical, E is for Shrink (psychiatrist), F is for Leagl. . . " But the requests at Project Place don't always remain anonymous. As many as 50 young people looking for a place to "crash" (sleep) come into the office per night. Project Place limits those simple "crashing" to three nights in the crowded office. But the staff refers a few people interested in kicking drug problems to a house a kw blocks away. Sunday: Drug Educationi Efforts I