Monday, February 06, 2006

USA Today on HEA Drug Provision

USA Today has a piece on Congress scaling back the HEA Drug Provision. The article also mentions SSDP's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, as well as the constitutional challenge that SSDP and CHEAR are working on with the ACLU.

I love the juxtaposition set up by the article's last two paragraphs:

The law has had a rocky history. It was the brainchild of Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., who said it would deter students from using or selling drugs, encourage abusers to get treatment and hold students accountable for taxpayer money. Souder also introduced the bill to soften the law, saying it reached beyond his intent.

But a congressionally created advisory committee suggested last year that the drug issue be dropped, calling it "irrelevant" to aid eligibility.

It really is ridiculous that Congress won't even follow the recommendation of their own appointees. What's even more crazy is that lawmakers are looking to someone like Mark Souder as a leader on the issue.

That's just B-A-N-A-N-A-S.


800 pound gorilla said...

What I don't understand is how it was supposed to "encourage people to seek and receive treatment" when doing so would entail mentioning drug use. The whole "drug problem" is TOTALLY about punishment. Even those referred to treatment have incarceration hanging over their heads.

The bottom line is this: IF the War on Drugs is about dealing with a real problem that includes "victims" who become addicted and "drug dependent" [yeah, it's an abuse of the term; drug dependent Dick Cheney would grin] why does it involve criminal punishments that punish both the victims of the "dangerous drugs" and taxpayers, many of whom are double hit as crime victims? Whether it's criminal penalties, mandated drug treatment with criminal penalties, or denial of student aid, the sole purpose of the War on Drugs is punishing people for use, abuse, and/or addiction to arbitrarily banned and age restricted drugs. Oh, and there's the embarrassing fact that no widely used drug will ever be shown inherently harmful. Drugs are just tools. They can be very useful in facilitating healthy outcomes. Now if only we made even a token attempt to educate the public on how to maximize the use of drugs....

Jeremy said...

I would have been surprised not to hear a comment from an 800 pound gorilla on a post that mentioned B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

But seriously, i was convicted of a felony drug offense when i was a freshman in college - i was suspended for a year, and then when i went to reapply for financial aid, there was a little questionnaire in the FAFSA instructions that helped me determine whether or not i should indicate if i was ineligible under the HEA drug provision - if i remember correctly, there was a list of things that if you checked off any of, you didn't have to indicate that you were ineligible. One of the things was completion of a court mandated drug rehabilitation program - which i did in fact, complete. This seems like an easy task - don't most drug offenders get ordered to do this, and would therefore be eligible for financial aid? I know my drug offense certainly didn't warrant any rehabilitation, but it seemed like that part was handed out like candy. This was in 1997 - has something changed and/or i'm completely insane? Any one have any input on this?

Tom Angell said...

You're correct that students can get their aid back early if they complete an approved drug treatment program that includes two unannounced drug tests (but many common programs like AA or NA, etc. don't qualify).

But the law makes no funding available for such treatment, and so many students who aren't able to pay for school on their own are also unable to afford costly private treatment programs.

Also, I'm not sure how you lost your aid in 1997 when the law was passed by Congress in 1998 and not enacted until 2000.

Jeremy said...

Hi Tom,

I didn't actually ever lose my aid - as a matter of fact, the school that I was suspended from gave me back my full tuition scholarship upon my return (the FAFSA was to work towards covering the rest). I was convicted in 1996 and went back to school in 1997 - at that point (or perhaps the next year) it came up on the FAFSA and I had to deal with it. But since I had completed the program with two random tests, I was in the clear. And if I remember correctly, my drug treatment program cost was based on a sliding scale - I believe I paid $5 for each weekly session. So while it's certainly not an insurmountable hurdle, I agree whole heartedly that the entire is idea is asinine - and I applaud your organization's effort to raise public awareness and foster change.

drug rehab program said...

Nice opinion, Tom. I think, it is better if we have stiffer policies that will totally eliminate the tendencies of substance abuse. Yes, there are drugs that are unquestionably beneficial to our health; but how can we make the public veer away from taking the drugs in an abusive manner? Punishing the users and the sellers do not help. Because if they do, we could have thwarted the dependents number long ago. Now that we have a lot of dependents seeking rehabilitation maybe we can do something on improving the drug rehab programs.