Author Topic: Investigation reports about Straight are now online  (Read 5438 times)

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Offline Ursus

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Growing Straight Inc. remains controversial
« Reply #30 on: April 16, 2011, 11:57:47 AM »
Quote from: "Ursus"
There was some hubbub in the newspapers during the summer of 1981 in which charges of "brainwashing" were aired.
Here's that hubbub which, again, to my admittedly somewhat removed perspective, probably bore little or no influence on Jim Hartz'z exit. It's just that I happen to have it ready in the queue.

The coverage comprised of a small collection of articles by St. Petersburg Times reporter Milo Geyelin, spanning two consecutive days, and started off with the top story in the Times 'City and State' section.

Caption for an accompanying illustration reads:

    During their first weeks at Straight, boys are held by their belt loops as they are escorted around the premises. Girls are taken by their hands.[/list]

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    St. Petersburg Times
    Monday, July 6, 1981

    Growing Straight Inc. remains controversial

    The teen-age drug-abuse therapy program, say some parents and former clients, is something close to divine salvation; others say it borders on brainwashing

    Straight Inc., a controversial drug-abuse treatment program for teen-agers, is approaching its fifth anniversary of operation in Pinellas County. This story, the first of two parts, examines Straight's method of therapy.

    By MILO GEYELIN
    St. Petersburg Times Staff Writer


    Almost every weekday morning it's the same.

    As commuters on the way to work cruise by a squat, sand-colored concrete buillding at 3001 Gandy Blvd., a chorus of teen-age voices rises from somewhere inside. the voices all sing the same song a song that, like it or not, will set the tone for the rest of the day:

      I'm here at Straight, feeling great;
      From nine to nine, I'm feeling fine.
      [/list]

      Nobody inside will be going anywhere for a while.

      Straight Inc., a drug rehabilitation center for teen-agers, will soon be in its sixth year of operation in Pinellas County. With a new branch successfully openend in Sarasota last fall, another expected in to open in Atlanta this summer and still more being considered in Cincinnati and Washington, D.C., the program is attracting a national following.

      But its philosophy that if peer pressure can get kids into trouble with drugs, peer pressure can get them "straight" remains controversial.

      STRAIGHT CALLS its therapy "re-acculturation" the process of "relearning the values, rules and behavior of the main culture."

      In the opinion of some parents and former clients, the therapy program is something close to divine salvation. Other parents and former clients say it borders on brainwashing.

      Straight's therapy is based on the theory that teenagers who use drugs most commonly marijuana and alcohol can't be helped unless they are totally removed from the influences that encourage them to use drugs, says Straight Administrative Director Miller Newton.

      Conventional counseling by psychologists or psychiatrists doesn't work with kids on drugs, Newton says, because "you cannot isolate the kid from the peer pressure that has (use of drugs) implicit in it." the way teenage drug users dress, the way they talk, the music they like, their values all these carry a message that Straight contends is unconventional, powerful and destructive.

      As Newton puts it, "The 'do drugs' message is so strong that you just can't isolate the kid (from it)."

      At Straight, the approach is to do just that.

      Getting 'straight'

      Teenagers enter Straight cut off from their friends and families. They have no rights. Boys are held by their belt loops as they are escorted around the premises during their first weeks at the program; girls are taken by their hands. Routine activities are closely controlled: Clients can drink water and go to the bathroom only twice a day, shower at specified times and for specified periods, brush their teeth and comb their hair for only a certain number of strokes and talk only when called upon.

      Rights to talk to parents, read books and watch television are taken away, then "earned" back as teen-agers pass through five progressive phases of treatment.

      The first phase involves developing "self," says Newton. It means being "honest" about one's past as a "druggie." While teen-agers are in this phase of the program, they live with other clients' families until they have earned the right to "come home."

      IN THE SECOND phase, the teen-agers can live at home and commute daily. In the third phase, they can attend school by day and Straight at night and on weekends. The fourth phase stresses developing friendships and the fifth phase the "sharing stage" is when the client may become a peer counselor and , ultimately, leave the program.

      Clients who are almost "straight" assist about a dozen young junior and senior paid staff members all of them former clients who make up the bulk of Straight's staff. There are five fulltime professionals on the staff and one clinical psychologist who shares his time between the St. Petersburg and the Sarasota branches.

      "If you look at the whole process, what we do here is sort of force a regression," say Dr. William Giesz, the clinical psychologist. "That is, we go back to about the toddler age and teach toilet training in a somewhat esoteric way. The belt loop phenomenon is much like what a parent would do with a toddler. The relationship is obvious."

      The day begins with the Straight sing-along and perhaps a recitation of self-improvement pledges known as "The Seven Steps." Then the teen-agers begin the first of three daily group therapy sessions called "raps." In a large, hot auditorium, seated in hard plastic chairs, boys and girls ages 12 to 18 face two staff members and embark on discussions that begin with broad themes, then narrow down to personal observations.

      "ONE OF THE most delightful group sessions I attended was on the theme bulls---, different kinds of bulls---," Giesz says. "And the kids got into different kinds of bulls--- associated with drug use and then the kinds of things they see around them that are bulls--- and things that are going on in the group that are bulls---.

      "There's a tendency in the group through any given session to relate to the past, then relate to where they are now what the differences are, where they want to go in the future and what they're going to do about it," he says.

      Motivation and honesty are encouraged. Suspected dishonesty and unwillingness to participate are attacked. Two former clients interviewed by The St. Petersburg Times said the rap sessions for most clients amounted to little more than phony confessionals where teen-agers "confessed" things they never did because such "honest" self-examination is seen as the only ticket out of the program.

      "To please a counselor or to shut someone up from putting you down, you always had to tell a big, dramatic story," says former client Jeanine Wright, 18, who ran away from the program last spring after five months there. "Some of the things they talked about applied to me, but a lot of it didn't. Every time I tried to tell them about my past, they would sit me down and tell me I was being dishonest."

      "PEOPLE WOULD lie through their ears to get 'better,' " recalls former client Michael Calabrese, 18, who ran away from the program last October after three months. "If you said things that were unpopular, it was disregarded, like that not very many of your friends were druggies or that you had a good job and were doing well. You were supposed to confess all kinds of bad stuff, and if you didn't, they figured you were lying."

      But other former clients say the rap sessions cut close to the bone, forced them to examine themselves and, in the long run, developed their self-confidence to the point where they could refuse drugs.

      Nancy Minton, 21, who left the program after a year and one month, says she is sure that "there were some younger kids in the program who did that (lied to get ahead)," but says that it was due to the drug environment they had just been yanked from. "Outside, you get just as much pressure from peers to do things wrong. I don't see what's wrong with using peer pressure to encourage someone to do something right."

      Those who want to advance through the program must stand before the group at specially scheduled raps twice a week and announce that they feel ready to progress.

      The request is discussed by the group, which then votes on it. A decision is made later the same day by the senior and executive staff, which rarely goes against the group vote. The decision is announced before the evening's "open meeting."

      A family affair

      At the open meetings, which parents are required to attend on a regular basis, teen-agers new to the program stand up before the packed audience and confess their drug use and what it did to them: the stealing, the sex, the hostility toward their parents and society. They talk about their feelings mostly guilt and how they will better themselves at Straight.

      Family contact is limited to the tightly controlled open meetings until the teen-ager reaches the second phase and is allowed to return home. The teen-agers, boys separate from girls, sit on one side of the auditorium. Before the parents are led in, staff members tell them to sit up straight, tuck in their shirts, look neat and smile. As the parents are being led through the back of the auditorium, the children are singing another Straight sing-along:

        I am straight, I can do anything ... anything.
        I am strong; I am invincible ... invincible.
        I am straight, I can do anything...
        [/list]

        The parents applaud when the song ends. Between them and their children 20 feet away, two teen-age staff members sit on stools. The seating is planned so o parent can look directly across at his child. Eye contact between family members is forbidden.

        After the teen-agers' confessions, a collection is taken from the parents.

        THEN THE PARENTS speak to their children by microphone. Many simply say, "I love you... Talk to you later." Others admonish their children to work harder at getting "straight." Some talk about the pain and resentment they feel because of the way they were deceived and others say flatly that their children are unwelcome at home until they are "straight."

        All through the open meeting, the names of those teenagers who have reached "second phase" and can go home for the duration of Straight's program are announced. Each time, the named youth jumps up, scrambles across his or her peers, races to the other side of the auditorium and leaps open-armed into a tearful embrace. The family hugs to thunderous applause an emotional display made all the more powerful by the chilling confessions which began the meeting.

        At the meeting's close, parents, clients and staff members join hands and sing a prayer. Then parents turn to those seated next to them and embrace.

        The message is carefully orchestrated and powerful: Straight brings families all families together again. The parents seem relieved and grateful.

        STRAIGHT DEMANDS an exhausting commitment from parents. All must attend a mandatory number of open meetings, even if it means commuting from out of state. After the open meetings, the parents must attend their own rap sessions where they learn about their child's involvement in the program, the ways of the "drug culture" and what to expect at home. The meetings last past midnight.

        The entire program takes at least six months to complete, Newton says. The average stay is 10 to 11 months, though some clients have stayed in the program as long as two years. The cost, Straight says, ranges from $750 to $1,700 for the whole program, depending upon a family's ability to pay, plus $35 per month for food.

        The fees make up 70 percent of Straight's $449,000 annual budget. The rest comes from donations (such as those made at the open meetings), says Straight Executive Director James Hartz. Straight will not turn away clients in need of help, no matter what their financial status, Hartz says.

        But no one goes to Straight for free. " really don't know (how many poor clients there are at Straight)," Hartz says. "My philosophy is very simple: If you don't pay for something, that's about how much you value it."

        Almost all the clients at Straight are white.

        Who gets straight?

        Since September 1976, when Straight opened, about 1,600 teen-agers have been enrolled. Roughly 600 have completed the program and only 300 of those less than a fifth have stayed completely away from drugs, Newton says.

        Most of the teen-agers in the program are referred there by parents who already have children in the program or know others who do, says Newton. Some have been referred there by school officials, police and, in the past, the Juvenile Court.

        But during the past two years, the Pinellas-Pasco Juvenile Court has virtually stopped referring youthful drug offenders to the Straight program. And judges say they never send them there merely at the request of parents.

        "ALMOST NEVER do we court-order them into the program," says Judge Jack Page. Page says he hasn't ordered a juvenile into Straight since reports surfaced about three years ago that Straight was keeping clients against their will. Though Page thinks the program has been very successful with some clients, he chooses Operation PAR (Parental Awareness and Responsibility) because that program does not take children away from their families.

        "It (the PAR program) is a shorter program and a little more normal," Page says. A stay at Straight can involve more than a jail sentence for the original drug-related offense that brings the teen-ager into court, he says. "The PAR program is more in keeping with the length of time and degree of involvement you'll find for community control." Page says.

        "Straight is highly intensive, and involves the entire family, more time and more money (than PAR) ... The kids go under a lot of pressure, and I'm not the one to put them under that pressure."

        There was a time when Judge Robert Michael ordered teen-agers into Straight as a matter of normal disposition, he says. But now he is reluctant to order juveniles into the program, even for drug offenses.

        I'M SURE THAT when parents get desperate, they welcome any program that will help their kids. But for those who don't need it (the kind of intense program Straight offers), I don't think you should be putting them there just to put them in the program," he said.

        Judge Michael also sends most of his juvenile drug offenders to PAR. He has not ordered a child into Straight in almost a year.

        Controversy remains

        Troubles at Straight first surfaced in December 1977, after six directors resigned to protest management and treatment techniques at the program. One director accused the nonprofit corporation of "misfeasance, malfeasance and nonfeasance." The complaints, which centered around handling of money and mistreatment of clients, were similar to those lodged against Straight's predecessor, The Seed.

        The Seed was disbanded in October 1975 amid reports that its peer-pressure tactics subjected teen-agers to intense mental and physical abuse. In 1974, a federal report had likened treatment methods used by The Seed "to highly refined brainwashing techniques employed by the North Koreans during the 1950s."

        Most of Straight's creators, its board of directors and staff members came directly from The Seed. But Straight, its supporters said at the time, was going to be different. The emphasis at Straight's rap sessions would be on creating a positive environment of "trust, care, honesty and sincerity."

        But in February 1978, reports arose alleging coercive tactics at the program. Former counselors alleged that a youth was threatened with a cocked handgun and others were forcibly detained or threatened with fake documents "signed by the police department." Treatment plans were allegedly falsified and, in one instance, former counselors claimed a youth was slapped repeatedly by an executive staff member.

        A THREE-MONTH criminal investigation conducted by the Pinellas-Pasco Attorney's office concluded that some of the allegations were true but there was insufficient evidence to bring criminal charges.

        Now, three years later, Straight's troubles are still not over. In its inspection of the program in March, the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS) found that Straight was not following state rules on client treatment and record-keeping.

        The HRS report indicated that several clients picked at random for interviews said high-level staff members threatened them with court orders which, they were told, would either force them into the Straight program or a mental institution if they did not sign themselves in voluntarily. HRS also said no clients interviewed knew of any process through which they could leave the program.

        Clients told HRS officials that doors and windows at the homes where they live during the initial phase were locked from the outside so they could not leave. Personal files such as medical histories, treatment plans and psycho-social evaluations were found to be incomplete or inadequately maintained, and Straight was unable to document a training program for its staff.

        CONTACTED AFTER the HRS report was released, Straight Executive Director Hartz said he felt "there are some inaccuracies" in the report but declined to discuss any specifics. "We fully wish to comply with state regulations and that is our intent," he said. (A more recent HRS inspection of Straight was conducted in June and Straight's license was renewed for one year. But HRS officials declined to discuss the specific evaluations until a written report is completed.)

        Despite its difficulties, Straight has attracted powerful national and local support. Robert DuPont, the founding director of the National Institute for Drug Abuse, last December addressed a banquet of Straight supporters in Tampa and called Straight one of the best drug-abuse treatment centers in the country a model for others.

        The program enjoys strong local support from such powerful names as shopping center developer Mel Sembler, former radio and television station owner Sam G. Rahall and longtime Pinellas developer Joseph Zappala. All three sit on the program's board of directors.

        Nonetheless, former clients continue to complain bitterly about the way Straight inducted them into its program. And Straight's definition of drug abuse appears to be highly subjective, yet more dogmatic, than that used by others in the field.

        When is drug use drug abuse?

        At Straight, any use of drugs is considered to be a problem. "If you talked to us about not taking kids who use recreational drugs because it's not dangerous, I would probably go through the roof as an individual and a professional because I would not want that attributed to me or the program," says Newton.

        "I can only give you my opinion," says Hartz. "The program doesn't have a written policy (on who is a drug abuser). To me, it's like pregnancy: Either you 'tis or you 'taint.

        "...A 14-year-old who did alcohol and pot and never got arrested, never skipped school that person in our opinion needs to work through his or her relationship to that drug just as much as the person who is 16 and who was out B and E'ing (breaking and entering), ripping off and so on and so forth."

        TRYING TO DEFINE drug abuse, says Hartz, who has a bachelor's degree and master's degree in psychology, is "like trying to define schizophrenia. You can't say it's the difference between two and three. It's a subjective type of judgment based upon the chemical dependency model we use here ... You learn to identify the problem, but ... it's not like going out and reading a thermometer ... the answer is a combination of experience, your knowledge base and the fact that we have some literature to review on. And our opinions."

        The "chemical dependency model" used at Straight had been adapted by Straight's administrative director, Newton, from a study on adult alcoholism. It lumps all drug use and its effects into one category a progressive and ultimately fatal "disease of the feelings."

        Before joining Straight, Newton, an ordained minister who graduated from Princeton University, was clerk of the Circuit Court in Pasco County, an unsuccessful 1976 candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives and former director of the Florida Alcohol Coalition.

        "OUR POSITION is this," says Newton: "Whether we take a kid into the program or not is determined in our judgment by whether the child and the family can handle stopping the (drug) use themselves or whether they need the help of an intensive, therapeutic program to isolate the kid from the peer influence the availability of drugs..."

        That determination is made on the basis of reports from parents, school officials, police records, the reputation a teen-ager may have with friends and relatives already in the program and the results of a thorough interview known as "intake," to which teen-agers are usually taken by their parents.

        It is this intake procedure that some former clients criticize most severely. They say that for hours, they were grilled, told they were deviant, worthless human beings and threatened with court orders that would put them in the program and keep them there.

        Eventually, they said, they believed it. So they signed themselves in.

        NEWTON DENIES any threats of court orders and scoffs at the possibility that some of Straight's clients may have been bullied into the program. "Nobody who has good self-esteem will let it plummet because somebody talks to you about your behavior for four, six, 10, 30 hours ... We've dealt with 1,600 kids here now, so we've put together a very coherent pattern that is fail-safe."

        Other mental health professionals and experts involved in treating drug abusers agree that deciding to send a child to a program like Straight depends on what you consider a drug problem to be. Most distinguish between casual, weekend or "recreational" use of drugs and drug dependency.

        David Milchan, a 21-year veteran of the St. Petersburg Police Department who as head of the Youth Services Devision frequently referred families to Straight, distinguishes between heavy use of drugs like marijuana and beer and recreational use.

        A heavy marijuana user would be "a child using marijuana on a regular basis, a child who says, 'I have to get high in order to function at school or with (my) family,' " says Milchan. He sat on Straight's advisory board until February 1980, when he resigned from the St. Petersburg Police Department to go work as a juvenile specialist at HRS. He is now police chief of St. Petersburg Beach.

        OPERATION PAR also makes a distinction between casual use of drugs like beer and marijuana and abuse of those drugs, says Associate Executive Director Arnold Andrews. For a teen-ager to be admitted to PAR, problems with police, one's family or school must be directly related to drug use, Andrews says.

        At PAR, which operates as an outpatient counseling clinic where clients and families come for scheduled appointments and leave, treatment is handled by staff members who have at least two years of college training in counseling.

        "They (Straight) deal with while middle- and upper-middle-class kids," says Andrews. "PAR kids are more lower-class, indigent kids."

        "People start taking drugs for all different sorts of reasons," says Dr. Anthony Reading, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of South Florida. "There is some correlation to underlying, preceding emotional problems."

        Growing up and being a teen-ager involves all sorts of complex issues stress, tensions, anxieties, says Dr. Reading. "It's a reasonable assumption that people in general don't get involved or overinvolved with drugs unless they have some kind of emotional problem.

        "PROGRAMS LIKE Straight appeal to parents because they don't want to accept responsibility for their children's (drug) problem. Parents can get over-attracted to the program because of the fear a parent has of someone saying, 'You've been a bad parent.' "

        In other words, Straight seems to appeal because its philosophy says that family problems stem from the drug use not the other way around.

        "You need to understand that drug use is a disease initiated by personal choice in response to peer pressure," says Newton in an unpublished treatise on drug abuse. "They (the parents) did not cause their child to use drugs."

        The truth is, Dr. Reading adds, "that in dealing with teen-agers, other teen-agers can be very, very effective in changing their behavior ... Peer pressure can be very supportive in getting them out and changing them."

        Parents whose children have had successful experiences at Straight agree.

        "STRAIGHT IS the only drug program providing the services it does for the price," says Charlie Pittman, whose son Winston went into the program when he wa 15 and is now training to become a staff member. "The price is cheap. You don't get that kind of cooperation unless you get people who really want to help themselves and their kids ... Straight isn't for everybody. Straight only works if the family wants it to work."

        Says another parent, "It's not a perfect program, but it's the best game in town. You can say what you want about it, but it does work."

        Next: Straight's critics and supporters recall their experiences with the program.


        # # #
        « Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »
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        Offline Ursus

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        St. Petersburg Times staff writer Milo Geyelin - profile
        « Reply #31 on: April 16, 2011, 12:38:23 PM »
        Profile of St. Petersburg Times staff writer Milo Geyelin (his brief bio is positioned below the above article; includes headshot):


          Staff writer Milo Geyelin spent several weeks interviewing former Straight clients, parents, staff members and numerous authorities in law enforcement, psychiatry and drug abuse to compile this report. Recently, he also spent a day at Straight observing the treatment program. Geyelin, 26, has been on the staff of
        The St. Petersburg Times since October 1979. He was born in Washington, D.C. and attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he majored in history and political science and graduated with distinction in December 1978. Since joining The Times, Geyelin has worked as a general assignment reporter and covered city government and police.[/list]
        « Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »
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        dragonfly

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        Re: Investigation reports about Straight are now online
        « Reply #32 on: April 16, 2011, 04:52:41 PM »
        « Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »

        Offline Ursus

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        Re: Investigation reports about Straight are now online
        « Reply #33 on: April 16, 2011, 05:04:25 PM »
        Quote from: "dragonfly"
        Looks like Milo might work for the Wall St. Journal...I'll try to email him on Monday and see if he'd be interested in a follow up story...
        That's a great idea!

        Incidentally, I'm still getting the rest of this set ready to post, but I should also hasten to add (and which I didn't discover 'till after I had already transcribed a fair amount of it) that this particular collection of coverage by Milo Geyelin of the St. Petersburg Times from 6-7 July 1981 can also be accessed on Surviving Straight Inc.'s page for Newspaper/Magazine Articles. Scroll down for pdf links under the year 1981.
        « Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »
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        Offline Ursus

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        'Tough Love' makes Straight successful, 2 graduates say...
        « Reply #34 on: April 16, 2011, 09:17:54 PM »
        Onwards... Here's the second article, appearing the next day:

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        St. Petersburg Times
        Tuesday, July 7, 1981

        'Tough Love' makes Straight successful, 2 graduates say...

        Straight Inc., a controversial drug-abuse treatment program for teen-agers, is approaching its fifth anniversary of operation in Pinellas County. These stories, the second of a two-part series on Straight, recount experiences of former Straight clients.

        By MILO GEYELIN
        St. Petersburg Times Staff Writer


        Winston Pittman tanned, articulate and as wholesome-looking as a model in a breakfast commercial remembers that his life used to be a lot different.

        There was a time, says the 19-year-old St. Petersburg Junior College student, when the only thing that really seemed to matter in life was drugs: where to find them, how to get them and where to find more.

        He started at age 13, concentrating mostly on marijuana and beer, he says. Then, over the course of two years, he tried amphetamines, LSD, hashish and cocaine. When those drugs were not available, Winston, the son of a successful financial advisre, turned to the only high there was paint thinner. He inhaled it.

        BUT ALL OF that has changed now, and the reason, says Winston, was Straight Inc. Winston spent one year and nine months there. He says it turned his life around.

        Winston and another Straight graduate spoke at length with The St. Petersburg Times about how they became involved with drugs, their experiences with Straight and why they think the program works.

        Both number among the roughly 800 (up from the 600 previously reported by Straight Inc.) who have successfully completed the Straight program, says Administrative Director Miller Newton. Newton, who does not have any exact figures, estimates that based on the numbers of teens who have completed the program, roughly two-thirds of the teen-agers and families who have been involved in Straight look back on it favorably.

        Winston's relationship with his parents began to slip before he became involved with drugs, he says, but drugs made the problem worse.

        "I'D SAY there was really no relationship there (with his parents) at all," he says now. "We really never talked or communicated ... I always thought my parents didn't know as much as I did about anything. I didn't like my Dad's authority. Most of the time we did talk, it was mostly arguments.

        "I didn't have any direction most 13-year-olds don't," he says. "But after I started drugs, I never looked into the future or what I was going to do with my life."

        The reason, he says was peer pressure. "I felt inadequate around my friends, and when I saw they were starting to sue drugs, it was kind of the thing to do. I felt like maybe if I started smoking pot ... I figured I'd get up with them, I'd be more on their level."

        Mrs. Pittman could see the change in her son, she says. "When I found out Winston was smoking pot, I felt, well, he's experimenting. It's a phase, he'll go through it ... But what I saw it do with my brothers and sisters and friends they went through hell during those four or five years while the kids were doing pot, wrecking the car, truancy from school, all kinds of things ... He hadn't gotten to that. He cloistered himself off in his room and his grades were dropping ..."

        That pattern is much like 21-year-old Nancy Minton's, who was in the Straight program for a year and one month. Nancy started taking drugs after her parents divorced when she was 14. She, her sister, her brother and her mother moved into a small Pinellas Park subdivision where drug use among teen-agers was popular. Her brother's friends took drugs, so Nancy started, too. "I think it was mostly for friends that I did it," she says. "I wanted to do something to get into the crowd."

        THREE YEARS later, Nancy says, she was drinking hard liquor, smoking marijuana, taking amphetamines, barbituates, hashish and opium regularly. Once she tried cocaine. Another time, she says, she tried morphine.

        Her grades and family life also began to deteriorate, she says. She started staying out late at night, vandalizing and "stealing for kicks."

        Both Winston and Nancy were signed into the program by their parents. Neither went willingly. That was before a state law was passed that requires persons in drug-abuse programs to enter them voluntarily.

        "When I first got there, there was no way ... I couldn't believe I was there," says Winston, who ran away from Straight twice, only to be returned by his parents.

        Looking back on it now, though, both Winston and Nancy agree that the best thing about Straight was the closeness, a kind of "tough love" that they say encourages frank, gloves-off counseling from peers about the way they are handling themselves in the large, group "rap" sessions. It is during the raps that the teen-agers are expected to tell the group about their past offenses, how they were affected by them and how they will better themselves in the future.

        "TOUGH LOVE is giving a person really what he needs, even if he doesn't want it," says Winston. "That's not always telling the person where they're at ... and showing them that you're angry ... It's sometimes easier using empathy and trying to relate to the person, or something like that."

        The raps, broken up into morning, afternoon and evening sessions, make up the bulk of the "teen-agers helping teen-agers" therapy at Straight. How teen-agers express themselves during the raps is the basis by which their progress is judged by the other teen-agers and, ultimately, what determines when they are ready to leave Straight.

        Progress is marked by advancement through a series of five phases each of which allows the teen-ager more freedom that lead to completion of the program. Straight Administrative Director Miller Newton says the first phase usually lasts three to four weeks; the second lasts two to three weeks; the third lasts four to six weeks; the fourth is at least a month long and the fifth phase lasts one to three months. Newton says the average length of total involvement in the program is about 11 1/2 months.

        Nancy remembers standing before the group and getting "put down" for being dishonest. The difference with her was that she really was being dishonest, she says now. "Sure. I did that, too (lied to score points with the group). I stood up and said, 'Hey, I think I'm grand and glorious and really don't think I need to be here.' "

        BUT OTHER clients at Straight who knew her before she came to the program "would turn around and be honest with me ... and say, 'What about this? Do you remember this that you did?'...It's a hard thing to face up to when you get caught up in your own mess," Nancy says.

        "For me, it was super hard because I was so used to having these quick little comebacks, fast little things to get people off the subject, but here (at Straight) if you do that kind of stuff, you get nailed. The whole group would be silent and somebody would say this thing to you, and you would just stop. You can't go anywhere. You have to sit there and listen.

        "There were times when people would say things that weren't true, and I'd know that within myself. But that's where applying what you learn in the program comes in...If it doesn't apply you don't use. If it does apply and it hits home and you know it, that's where you can do some changing ..."

        Winston and Nancy are grateful to Straight. "I had feelings, but before (going to Straight) I would always suppress them and push them down," says Winston, who wants to study psychology at St. Petersburg Junior College. "When I did finish the program, I was able to express my feelings. I had a lot more confidence in myself, a lot more self-esteem, which I never had."

        "I FEEL like it's a 180-degree turnaround," says Nancy. "I'm going somewhere. I'm going to school. I'm making steps. I'm doing something for myself...I've got the confidence to go on now. It's totally different."

        Winston would like major in psychology at a university when he finishes junior college. After that, he hopes to get accepted in a staff position at Straight. Nancy will graduate from St. Petersburg Junior College this fall. For the past three years, since leaving Straight, she has worked at Montgomery Ward. She lives with her mother now and has recently become interested in religion, she says. Eventually, she would like to work with kids before they become vulnerable to drug abuse, she says.

        The kind of people whom Straight can't help, says Winston, are those "who don't feel they have any problems...the type of people who aren't committed to helping themselves, the type of people who don't make decisions...Further on the line, they're eventually going to have to take responsibility for their own lives or they're going to end up in jail or another program."

        Straight involves more than just drugs, says Nancy. The program changes attitudes...It really helps change your attitudes, your beliefs. It really lets you check inside yourself and say, 'Hey, what's best for me?' and to stop worrying about the other guy. I think anybody can use it."


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        Offline Ursus

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        ...another youth tells of threats and intimidation
        « Reply #35 on: April 16, 2011, 09:42:23 PM »
        And the third one... Caption for an illustration accompanying this article:

          Michael Calabrese says he was questioned for nine hours in a small room. St. Petersburg Times JOE TONELLI[/list]

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          St. Petersburg Times
          Tuesday, July 7, 1981

          ...another youth tells of threats and intimidation

          By MILO GEYELIN
          St. Petersburg Times Staff Writer


          On a sunny summer morning last July, 17-year-old Michael Calabrese and his mother walked in through the front door of Straight Inc.

          They thought they were there, they say, to talk to Straight staff members about Michael's younger brother, who was being treated at Straight for drug abuse. An administrative assistant at Straight had written Michael's father in Kissimmee to say it was "an important part of (the younger brother's) program to firmly establish the relationship to other members of the family."

          But Michael says he didn't talk much about his brother that day.

          INSTEAD, HE SAYS, he was taken to a room with Straight staff members, where he was questioned about himself for nine hours.

          And his mother says that by the time she saw him again late that afternoon, she found him crumpled in a chair in a small, brightly lit room.

          He was crying.

          That day, after he says he was threatened with a court order that would keep him in Straight for two years, Michael signed himself in "voluntarily." Florida law requires that clients in drug treatment programs sign themselves in voluntarily although they can be required to do so by court order but Straight does not have the legal authority to produce court orders. No drug program does.

          Straight Executive Director James Hartz and Administrative Director Miller Newton have declined to discuss the specifics of Michael's or any other client's case. Michael and another former client have signed notarized consent forms authorizing Straight to discuss their treatment, but Hartz and Newton still refuse. However, Newton, who was at Straight the day Michael signed himself in, denies that the tee-ager was threatened with a court order.

          Michael's charge that he was threatened with a court order by adult staff member at Straight is not isolated. A recent Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS) monitoring report revealed that several clients interviewed randomly by HRS officials also told of being threatened by administrative staff members with being forced into the program by program by court order. After a story appeared in The St. Petersburg Times in April detailing the results of the HRS inspection, several other former clients contacted The Times to report similar treatment by Straight staff members.

          MICHAEL CONCEDES he had a headful of problems before he went to Straight. His parents have been divorced about 10 years, but the court agreed to let him live with his mother about a year ago, even though his father retained legal custody of him and his brother. Michael says he wanted to move in with his mother because he had difficulties with his father.

          Michael admits that for two years, he smoked marijuana once or twice a week. Occasionally he drank beer. He once smoked a marijuana cigarette that someone later told him had cocaine in it. And he did poorly in high school his junior year. Michael says he flunked tests on purpose to spite his father.

          Dr. Anthony Calabrese, a radiologist in Kissimmee, has declined all comment on his sons' cases. But Michael says his father blames their troubles at home on drugs. That was why Michael's brother was in Straight, where he remains now. And that was why Michael went there with his mother.

          MICHAEL HAD a fulltime summer job at a supermarket in Kissimmee at the time he went to the interview last July 19. The night before, he says, he had unloaded semitrailer trucks and stocked shelves from midnight to dawn, then drove to St. Petersburg with his mother for the 9 a.m. appointment.

          When they arrived, Michael says, he was taken into a small room, called an "intake room," by two Straight clients known as peer counselors. He was seated and the
          door was shut, he says. His mother was taken somewhere else.

          He asked them how long he was going to be, Michael says. They told him they didn't know.

          "I said, 'Why am I here?'

          "They didn't know...

          "And then they said, 'Well, talk about yourself'...So I tell them I work at Winn-Dixie unloading trucks...

          "Then, after an hour of trying to figure out what's going on, they say 'Well, do you do any drugs?'

          "I said I just smoke pot and drink beer."

          A STAFF TRAINEE entered the room with a note pad and recited a list of drugs, asking Michael which drugs he did.

          "I said pot and beer.

          "He said pot and alcohol.

          "Then he rang out a whole bunch of other drugs...

          " 'PCP (animal tranquilizer)?'

          " 'No.'

          " 'Thai stick (a very potent form of marijuana from Thailand)?'

          " ' No.'

          " 'Mushrooms (organic hallucinogens)?'

          " 'No.'

          "You name it. 'Cocaine?'

          " 'No.'

          "After a while, I had it all memorized...It was real casual at first, then they started 'heavying up.' "

          At different times, when he motioned to leave, Michael says, the Straight staff members moved towards the door and blocked his way. When he asked to go to the bathroom, he was led, flanked by the two teen-agers, to the bathroom. Then, he says, he was taken back to the intake room.

          AFTER ABOUT three hours of questioning, Michael says, "This one man, Miller Newton, comes in and he says, 'What drugs do you do?' And I told him only pot and alcohol and named off the rest that I didn't do.

          "Then he says, 'Well you got an attitude.' And I told him, 'Well, I'm tired of you all asking...I'm tired, I've got work to do (that night), I've got to get some sleep...'

          "He (Newton) says, 'How many days ago did you smoke pot?' I said, 'A week, week-and-a-half ago.'

          "So he lifts up my glasses and I guess my eyes were red. He said, 'Bulls---, you're lying. We're tired of this, you've got to start telling the truth.' "

          "I stood up and screamed and yelled at him. 'F--- you! You don't know I've been working these past 12 hours. You don't know I haven't been sleeping. You don't know what the heck you've been putting me through!'

          "He was yelling at me and I was yelling at him and my temper was going Pshew! Then he yelled that that was the reason I had to be in the program. I said, 'What, get me in this place?'

          "AND THEN, you know, it just hit me like...They're trying to put me in.

          Other staffers, including adults, joined the interview, Michael says. "They would ask me what I do for kicks when I'm not doing drugs. I told them I like to run on a course and they would accuse me of lying and say people don't do things like that.

          "They asked a lot of general questions. They said, 'Do you have a girlfriend?' I told them, 'Yes.' They said 'Do you like her?' I said, 'Yes.' 'Do you use her?' 'No.'

          "Then they said, 'Do you neck?' I said, 'Yeah, sometimes.' Then they said, 'Well you're using her.'

          "I mean, they just blew things way out of proportion. They make me feel like I wasn't half my weight, that I needed the program."

          "They said it was my fault that me and my dad couldn't get along. I chose to make him upset...It wasn't anybody's fault by my own," Michael says. "I wasn't 'a man' because instead of staying there (with his father) and fixing it up, I left. They tried to blame it on me...

          "THEY SAID I didn't have any responsibility because of my school record..."

          And then, Michael says, they started talking about what Straight could do for him. They told him, he said, "that my and my dad's relationship would be better, we'd do things together more (if he joined Straight)."

          Straight, Michael says he was told, would give him "four years of college awareness." He would "become better aware of the truth and be able to use it to keep from getting hurt by other people. 'You'd be able to talk about feelings, the real things in life...' " Michael says he was told.

          A Straight staff member told him his mother "couldn't handle herself. She couldn't handle me. She couldn't handle my brother. She didn't know what she was doing," Michael says.

          The only reason Michael's mother wanted him to live with her was so she could collect child support, Michael says he was told by an adult staff member.

          In one of Straight's offices, meanwhile, Mrs. Marler says she was waiting to see her younger son. The people who talked to her, though, "sort of dropped (the younger boy) after a bit...and said it's usually the sibling that has the problem..." She said they told her that it would probably be Michael, not his brother, who had the more serious drug problem.

          "I KEPT DENYING everything she (the adult staff member) said to me..." Mrs. Marler says. "I was telling her that he's a good worker at his job, I know the manager. I know that he spends a lot of time working on machinery, cars whatever. He likes to read. He's thinking about going back to school...about going into the Winn-Dixie management program. I know his friends, the girls that he would see.

          "They said, 'No. This is a coverup. This is all a coverup.' She was discounting everything I said. It was almost like she wasn't listening to me. I suppose they were trying to convince me that he did have a problem."

          Mrs. Marler says she would be questioned about Michael and then be left alone for about 15 minutes. Then a staff member would return and the questioning would continue. As the morning wore into the afternoon, the questioning became more intense.

          "Before they brought me in to see him (Michael),"Mrs. Marler says, "they were telling me, 'Did I know about his stealing (from his father), did I know about his assault and battery with a deadly weapon (against his stepmother), did I know about his homosexuality (with his brother)...' " Michael, they told her, had confessed to all of this, she says. Michael vehemently denies that he either committed any of these acts or confessed to them.

          ABOUT 4 P.M., Mrs. Marler says, she was taken to see her son. "He (Michael) was crying and he could hardly talk...He was in a corner and they were in a semicircle" around him. Calabrese, her former husband, was there too.

          Michael claims he was told by Straight staff members, including Newton, that Straight already had a court order that would force him into the program. When they said that, Michael looked up at his father, and Calabrese nodded his head up and down, Michael says.

          If he signed, he could go home in 14 days and complete the program in three months, Michael says he was told. If he refused, the court order would force him into the program anyway. If that happened, he would not be able to go home again for 30 days and would have to remain in the program two years, he says.

          After two more hours, Michael says, he signed.

          "They convinced me that I was a druggie and I needed help...that I was disrespectful in all respects because I was already telling off Mr. Newton," Michael says. "Just all of a sudden, I felt lowly of myself. They made my self-opinion go down. Just the constant 'You're no good' bit. 'You're a druggie. You're a druggie. I mean, when you hear that and you have no control, I mean there was nothing I could do."

          NEWTON AND HARTZ declined to discuss Michael's version of the events or give their own. Whether the program accepts a client, says Newton, is determined by interview with parents, previous counselors, school officials, police and other children or relatives in the program. Neither he nor Hartz would say who was questioned about Michael prior to his interview.

          In a general discussion, Newton said that one of the ideas behind the intake procedure is to get potential clients to admit their drug habits and to sign themselves into the program voluntarily.

          "We have kids work with a kid until the kid admits to having a drug problem," Newton said. "Getting a kid to admit he has a drug problem is an arduous task, and admitting need of help...I don't really like to take a kid until I get the kid to own up. The kids usually get this in talking to them and pushing them, and I check their eyes.

          "There are signs in the eyes that you can tell about if a kid is getting high pretty frequently..."

          THE ACTUAL INTAKE procedure, says Newton, is "done by two other kids on the program who come and visit and mainly relate themselves, who share...their experiences as a druggie," he says. But an adult professional always gets involved, Newton says.

          "We review what the kids (already in the program) have on them (the potential client). We go in and talk to the kid for a few minutes and talk to the parents and sign off," Newton says. "If there is a kid who is questionable, we usually have four or five peer staff members go in and look and maybe two of us (adults) will look at the kids and talk to the parents. We'll spend the time, if it's questionable, because we don't want to put the kid in the program who doesn't need to be here."

          Newton denies using threats of court orders to frighten clients into joining Straight. "Michael is throwing the word 'threat' around very loosely. I do not threaten any kid. The facts are there is a degree in which family authority is coercion. That's reality."

          "This program has never gone out and gotten a court order," says Hartz.

          "The family takes the initiative. We cannot. We will not," says Newton.

          THERE IS NOTHING in the Orange County Court records to show that Calabrese ever obtained a court order forcing Michael to join Straight.

          But when Michael ran away from Straight in early October, his father did try to obtain a court order to force Michael to go back. Straight sent its clinical psychologist, Dr. William Giesz, and a 17-year-old junior staff member to Orlando to testify on behalf of Calabrese. The case was heard Oct. 15 in Orange County Circuit Court.

          Michael's mother prepared for the court fight by having Michael examined by a psychiatrist, a psychologist and a physician. He was given a standard psychological examination.

          The test results indicated Michael was "an adolescent experiencing situational family difficulties," that he was "sensitive to the opinions of others" and showed "considerable evidence of resentment of authority figures." The personality profile was "typical of adolescents who are experimenting with 'recreational drugs.' It is not a personality picture typical of those prone to abusing narcotics or other hard drugs," the report read.

          HOWEVER, GIESZ, Straight's psychologist, testified "emphatically" that Michael needed further treatment, according to court transcripts. The Straight psychologist said he based his opinion on Michael's records when he entered the program three months earlier, as well as from from talking to other "youngsters on the staff," and from watching Michael in group sessions.

          Giesz had not, however, seen Michael's most recent treatment records, did not know if the rest of the staff considered him ready to leave the program and never talked to Michael "one-on-one," court records show. The motion for the court order was denied.

          "(The psychological test Michael was given) will not determine drug use," counters Newton. "The psychiatrist who and the judge doesn't know this but the psychiatrist who examined Michael was not qualified to determine adolescent drug abuse...It was a standard psychiatric report that missed a lot of symptomatic stuff that anyone who interviewed Mike who is a chemical-dependency counselor would have picked up. I can't discuss how I determined Mike had a drug problem."

          Newton scoffs at the possibility that some clients may be bullied into joining Straight. "If you really want to look at what it takes to assault somebody's (self-esteem), it takes 30 to 60 days of 16- to 18-hour days," he says. So if somebody goes through a simple interview where kids are discussing things with them...if you have any self-worth at all, it doesn't disappear or diminish at all. Even with kids from broken homes.

          "The only kids that have problems with self-worth are either kids who are emotionally disturbed or have a drug-use pattern."

          Dr. Renu Das of Kissimmee, the psychiatrist who examined Micahael at his mother's request, said, "Michael's problem was not drug-related. His profile was typical of the recreational drug abuser." The Straight experience might have helped Michael had his problem been drug-related, she says.

          "THE PROBLEM was that his father was not fostering enough independence," the doctor said. "It's a common adolescent problem."

          Michael lost his job at Winn-Dixie. After finishing high school last spring, he signed up with the Air Force and is scheduled to begin service in October. In the meantime he is holding down two jobs stocking shelves for an Albertsons supermarket and cleaning rugs for a cleaner service.

          He says he no longer smokes marijuana.


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          Offline Trekker Jag

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          Newwton's REAL area of expertise...........
          « Reply #36 on: April 16, 2011, 10:43:06 PM »
          From the article above:

          "Newton scoffs at the possibility that some clients may be bullied into joining Straight. "If you really want to look at what it takes to assault somebody's (self-esteem), it takes 30 to 60 days of 16- to 18-hour days," he says. "So if somebody goes through a simple interview where kids are discussing things with them...if you have any self-worth at all, it doesn't disappear or diminish at all. Even with kids from broken homes."

          Well, he DOES know how long it takes to assault someone's self-esteem.    That's the only fact he states in the entire interview.  Oh, the irony.........
          « Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »
          iller & Mel--Burn in Hell

          dragonfly

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          Re: Investigation reports about Straight are now online
          « Reply #37 on: April 18, 2011, 09:00:15 AM »
          « Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »

          Offline Shadyacres

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          Re: Investigation reports about Straight are now online
          « Reply #38 on: April 18, 2011, 12:16:44 PM »
          "The only kids that have problems with self-worth are either kids who are emotionally disturbed or have a drug-use pattern."

          How was this idiot able to pass himself off as a "professional" for 20+ years?  What he is saying is "if we were able to break them in the 'interview', then that is proof that they needed the program".  Apparently, having lazy or incompetent parents will never result in low self worth.  If you didn't have the self confidence to stand up to these assholes, it is just proof that you were a "druggie".

          "I check their eyes" ?  What an unbelievable douchebag.
          « Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »

          Offline Sam Kinison

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          Re: Investigation reports about Straight are now online
          « Reply #39 on: April 19, 2011, 05:09:44 PM »
          Winston Pitman,approximately one year after this article's publication and after recognizing Reverend Doctor Virgil Miller Newton for who he really was,told him on no uncertain terms to.......................KISS HIS ASS!!!!!!!!
          « Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »

          Offline Ursus

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          Re: Investigation reports about Straight are now online
          « Reply #40 on: April 19, 2011, 06:49:47 PM »
          Quote from: "Sam Kinison"
          Winston Pitman,approximately one year after this article's publication and after recognizing Reverend Doctor Virgil Miller Newton for who he really was,told him on no uncertain terms to.......................KISS HIS ASS!!!!!!!!
          I guess he got in touch with his true feelings then, eh?  :D  From the 2nd article in this multi-article coverage by Milo Geyelin:

            Winston and Nancy are grateful to Straight. "I had feelings, but before (going to Straight) I would always suppress them and push them down," says Winston, who wants to study psychology at St. Petersburg Junior College. "When I did finish the program, I was able to express my feelings. I had a lot more confidence in myself, a lot more self-esteem, which I never had."
          [/size]
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          dragonfly

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          Re: Investigation reports about Straight are now online
          « Reply #41 on: April 19, 2011, 07:06:44 PM »
          « Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »

          Offline Ursus

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          Several Pinellas programs provide drug abuse counseling
          « Reply #42 on: April 23, 2011, 11:46:28 AM »
          Here's another Milo Gevelin article which accompanied the above set, and which gives a broader picture of what was available at the time...

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          St. Petersburg Times
          Tuesday, July 7, 1981

          Several Pinellas programs provide drug abuse counseling

          By MILO GEVELIN
          St. Petersburg Times Staff Writer


          Teen-age drug abusers in need of counseling have several major programs in Pinellas County from which to choose: Operation PAR (Parental Awareness and Responsibility) and Straight Inc. in St. Petersburg, Bay Shore on the Gulf in Dunedin and the Bowling Green Unit at Metropolitan Hospital in Pinellas Park.

          Straight, where therapy is conducted primarily in large group sessions, attempts to change teen-agers' behavior by peer pressure. The program has one clinical psychologist and five adult professional counselors who oversee 12 junior and senior staff members. The junior and senior staff members all former clients handle the bulk of the therapy.

          The program, which costs between $750 and $1,700, depending upon a family's ability to pay, lasts anywhere from six months to two years. The average length of involvement is 10 to 11 months. Parental involvement in the program is required.

          At Straight, teen-age clients are looked upon as members of a deviant culture. They are separated from their families and schools for the first part of the program, then allowed to re-enter society in a series of progressive advancements, which must be "earned." The program is designed to force a "re-learning of the values, rules and behavior of the main culture," according to Straight administrative director Miller Newton.

          AT BAY SHORE on the Gulf, 1340 Bayshore Blvd., Dunedin, as many as 16 clients bothe adolescents and adults are treated for alcohol and drug abuse. The program, which accepted its first client nearly a year ago, models much of its therapy on the type of group sessions used by Alcoholics Anonymous, says Dr. Sid Archer, director of the program and himself a recovered alcoholic.

          The program requires family involvement in the program whether other family members use drugs or not, says Archer. "We believe in sharing, feeling, loving and breaking down defenses," he says. "There is confrontation and pressure."

          The program for alcoholics lasts 28 days and costs $2,750; the program for drug abusers and alcoholics who abuse other substances lasts 42 days and costs about $4,000, Archer says. That includes accommodations in a converted motel where clients, sometimes with their families, live during their stay in the program.

          THE BOWLING GREEN Unit, a private treatment center under contract with Metropolitan Hospital to treat alcohol and drug abusers, is a branch of Florida's oldest drug and alcohol treatment center in Bowling Green. The center has 20 beds and treats alcoholics during a 28-day program; drug abusers and alcoholics who use other drugs stay 56 days. The total cost at $127.50 per day ranges from $3,570 to $7,140. Like Bay Shore on the Gulf, the program treats both adolescents and adults.

          The program uses group therapy, seminars and one-to-one counseling, says director Dan Kelly. Confrontation and peer pressure to force clients to recognize their drug dependencies are used to some extent, says Kelly, but the program also uses psychotherapy to help clients recognize emotional problems that may have contributed to their drug use.

          "We use true group therapy, not just the Alcoholics Anonymous-type therapy," says Kelly. "We're helping people to resolve issues in their lives that maybe are 15 years old and that have never been resolved," Kelly says.

          PAR OFFERS counseling sessions for teen-age drug abusers and their families, both individually and in groups, during scheduled meetings. To be admitted to the program, teen-agers must be "heavy" drug users with problems at home, in school or with the law that are directly attributable to drug use.

          The cost at PAR, like Straight, also depends upon ability to pay, but it averages about $3 per session, according to PAR Associate Executive Director Arnold Andrews. Counseling at PAR is conducted by college-trained counselors, and the length of involvement at PAR can vary from two months to a year, he says.

          PAR considers drug abuse to be a product of emotional, family and social conflicts and tries to deal with those problems as a whole.


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