Country singer Darius Rucker has a great song called “When Was The Last
Time,” which offers an interesting message. The refrain in the song rhetorically
asks the question, “When was the last time you did something for the first time?”
The song goes on to relate some of those ‘firsts,’ mainly good ones that most of
us experience. While I love Darius Rucker and enjoy that song, the refrain has
haunted me of late. Recently, I had the occasion to speak with a parent who is
mourning the loss of a child who died of an overdose. This incident is particularly
disturbing, as it is believed this was the first time the child had taken drugs. My
thoughts turned to all the ‘firsts’ these loving parents had experienced with their
child, only to see it all end by the first and last time their child took drugs. It is the
reason why in Clarkstown we are deeply committed to continuing the D.A.R.E.
program, which many municipalities have regrettably dropped.
D.A.R.E. stands for define, assess, respond, evaluate. It is a wonderful program
that has been offered in the town for over 30 years. The Clarkstown Police
Department was the first law enforcement agency to present the program in
Rockland County. The D.A.R.E. Program is taught in elementary schools at the
fifth grade level. The curriculum is 12 weeks and students are provided
information and facts from a Clarkstown Police officer about the dangers of drugs,
alcohol, and tobacco. The course also covers other important topics such as
bullying and peer pressure. The D.A.R.E. program started before everyone’s
accessibility to the internet and social media, but the curriculum has evolved
through the years to cover new areas and topics pertinent to ‘tweens.’
Through D.A.R.E., children learn strategies on how to avoid situations they will
face as they mature into middle school and high school students. For example,
they learn multiple ways to ‘just say no’ to others who are offering drugs or alcohol
to them. It is perhaps one of the most important programs that we provide, as it
gives strategies on how to live a healthy and safe life. It also gives students the
opportunity to establish a positive relationship with the Clarkstown Police
Department. Over 30,000 students have graduated from the program since 1991.
The program ends with a graduation ceremony that recognizes the efforts of the
students’ participation in D.A.R.E. and encourages them to remain drug–free. The
D.A.R.E. Program also sponsors several extracurricular activities, including 3-on-3
basketball tournaments and street hockey tournaments to promote positive
activities for students.
I’m so grateful for our partnership with all four of the school districts and parochial
schools within the Town of Clarkstown which participate in the D.A.R.E. program.
Thank you for the exceptional job of our D.A.R.E. officers in the Clarkstown Police
Department for teaching our young people for so many years. We will continue to
fund and promote this very valuable program that assists our youth in dealing with
the challenges they face on the path to adulthood. We are very fortunate to have
such a dedicated and experienced police department working with our local
schools to keep our children safe.
Hopefully, the information and strategies from D.A.R.E. will prevent the wrong
kinds of ‘first times,’ because these inevitably lead to ‘last times’ and so many
other horrible consequences. The disease of drug addiction is incredibly powerful
and we must do all we can to educate and support young people so they will live
long and healthy lives, where they have many positive ‘firsts.’
If you or a family member is struggling with substance abuse issues, please
remember there is plenty of help available. Hope Not Handcuffs is a collaborative
effort between law enforcement, and community organizations to find viable
treatment options for individuals seeking help to reduce their dependence on
prescription medication, alcohol, heroin, or other drugs.
Call 833-428-HOPE or visit
https://www.tricountycommunitypartnership.org/hopenothandcuffs for more