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PHOTO SUBMITTED Pioneer and founder of the Butte County Drug Endangered Children¹s Program (DEC), Sue Webber-Brown, of Oroville met with President George Bush in Washington D.C.
Oroville resident and founder of the Drug Endangered Children's program, Sue Webber-Brown, was recently invited to meet with President George Bush.

She is one of 12 people who received a special invitation to speak to the president about their work in drug prevention programs.

President Bush hosted meetings on "Teen Drug Use" on Dec. 11, and he had a press conference in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to White House concerning the results of the "Monitoring the Future" study conducted by the University of Michigan.

There were about 60-70 reporters from around the world in attendance when President Bush announced the results of the teen drug abuse survey that showed a 24 percent reduction in drug use.

This 2007 Study surveyed 48,025 8th, 10th, and 12th graders in a nationally representative sample of 403 public and private schools.

Webber-Brown, a Butte County District Attorney Investigator, was invited to the press conference and to have a personal meeting with the president to discuss her work.

The background information sheet on Webber-Brown provided to President Bush said she has been working for the past 15 years protecting children, who are physically and emotionally endangered by the illicit drug trade.

"During her service as a narcotics detective, Sue Webber-Brown participated in more than 2,000 investigations and has rescued over 1,900 children from hazardous homes where drugs were used, sold, or manufactured. Webber-Brown is


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responsible for the development and success of the 'Drug Endangered Children's' (DEC) program, the first program of its kind developed and implemented nationwide to rescue children from the neglect, violence, and physical harm prevalent in homes where drugs ­ particularly methamphetamine ­ are manufactured and/or used. Webber-Brown has provided DEC training to over 24,000 law enforcement officers in 23 other states," the background sheet read.

Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey, who hired Webber-Brown and has supported the DEC program, said he was surprised and delighted to hear the news that Webber-Brown was invited to meet President Bush.

"I was so proud of this recognition of her work with the DEC program on a national level, and having the President's acknowledgment of Sue's work in saving children and bringing down drug abuse," Ramsey said.

DEC involves a multiple-discipline response to rescue children from substance abuse environments.

"Our motto for the alliance is 'Rescue, Defend, Shelter, and Support Drug Endangered Children,'" Webber-Brown said. "There are now both national and international alliances for the Drug Endangered Children's program now."

Webber-Brown drew upon her experience as a law enforcement officer and as a mother in her work helping children.

"I knew we weren't doing the right things and changes had to be made. And, there are still a lot of children today living in drug homes we are not taking care of," she said.

When she was first informed the president wanted to talk to her, she didn't know what to think. "I wondered which president of what organization?" Webber-Brown said with a chuckle. She was very excited when she was assured the President of the United States was the one wanting to have a meeting with her.

"It was a huge honor," she said. "At first, I didn't believe it was really the White House calling."

Webber-Brown described her meeting with the President:

"President Bush shook our hands and was very kind and expressed appreciation for our work," she said. "He spoke about the importance of individuals coming together in the community to make a difference."

What was her message to President Bush? "I spoke about the personal tragedies of children and the DEC program and that I believe the DEC program is a vital strategy and program to end the cycle of substance abuse and violence," she said.

In Butte County, Webber-Brown has received about 15-20 referrals of children in need of support in just the last couple of weeks. In 2006, DEC received 600 referrals to the Butte County Narcotics Task Force (BINTF) concerning reports of children in need of support.

Out of the 600 referrals about children, BINTF responds to less than 100 children, Webber-Brown said, "There are children living in chaotic lifestyles and they are witnessing violence and suffering abuse. We have much better results if we can save them early on, and identify the issues at an early stage."

Webber-Brown also believes the DEC intervention helps prevent domestic violence and substance abuse.

President Bush asked Webber-Brown what he and the government should do to ensure children are protected. "I told the president DEC should be part of the standard curriculum in law enforcement academies across the country and also DEC should be in the training curriculum for social services and in curriculum for prosecuting attorneys," she said.

Webber-Brown said law enforcement officers are trained for months in Field Training Officer programs, but often don't learn about how to respond to DEC cases until much later.

"They should learn how to handle DEC cases right along with how to investigate other types of cases, such as how to investigate domestic violence cases," she said.

Also, she said social services needs law enforcement's participation. "Social services cannot conduct parole or probation searches or execute any search warrants and find out if drug abuse is going on inside the home. Law enforcement needs the training to work in partnership with social services in helping the children," she said.

Webber-Brown would also like to see grant money for DEC become tied to effective, measurable results, such as seeing an increase in the number of children saved from drug homes, she said.

Webber-Brown expressed appreciation to Scott Burns, Deputy Director of the Office of State, Local, and Tribal Affairs and John Walters, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Webber-Brown met Burns in 2002 and discussed the DEC program with him. "He is a huge supporter of DEC," she said.

During the President's press conference, the results of the teen drug use survey were announced and a statement was made, which read in part:

"In 2002, the President set a goal of reducing youth drug use by 25 percent over five years. Since then, the Administration has implemented a balanced strategy that emphasizes prevention, treatment, and enforcement. Due to the policies and programs implemented at the Federal, State, and local levels, there are 860,000 fewer young people using drugs today than there were in 2001 . . . As a result of the balanced anti-drug strategies being implemented at the Federal, State, and local levels, there are 860,000 fewer young people using drugs today than there were in 2001."

According to the latest Monitoring the Future Study (MTF), long-term trends of decreasing youth drug use have continued from 2001 to 2007. Use of any illicit drug has dropped 24 percent; Marijuana use has decreased 25 percent; Steroid use has dropped by a third; Ecstasy use is less than half of what it was in 2001 (54 percent decline); Use of methamphetamine has plummeted a staggering 64 percent; Use of alcohol, including binge drinking, and cigarette smoking have decreased by 15 and 33 percent, respectively.

There are still challenges that remain, according to the MTF Study. Overall, youth prescription drug abuse is the second largest category of abuse, only behind marijuana. Past-year use of Oxycontin increased 30 percent between 2002-2007; Past-year use of Vicodin has not receded; Attitudes toward Ecstasy use have softened with a 7 percent decrease in perceived harmfulness of using Ecstasy occasionally; and a 4 percent decrease in perceived harmfulness of using Ecstasy.

For more information on the DEC program, see: www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/enforce/dr_endangered_child.html or www.nationaldec.org/

Those honored for working on the front lines in drug prevention programs and who joined Oroville's Sue Webber-Brown in receiving invitations to meet the President Bush, included:

  • Sheriff Tom Bosenko of Shasta County in Anderson, CA. From April through July 2007, Sheriff Bosenko led an effective effort to eradicate thousands of marijuana plants grown on public lands.

  • Justin Calderon of Riverside, CA. Calderon began using drugs when he was 11 years old. At 18, he was addicted to meth. A judge allowed him to go to Teen Challenge, a faith-based residential treatment program, which allows him to speak to at-risk teens about the dangers of substance abuse. He plans to pursue a career helping at-risk children. 

  • Darryl Coates, Executive Director, Philadelphia Anti-Drug/Anti Violence Network (PAAN). Coates has led the PAAN to become one of Philadelphia's most effective community-based organizations working to reduce youth substance abuse and violence.

  • Karen Engle, Executive Director, Operation UNITE (Unlawful Narcotics Investigations Treatment and Education) from Somerset, Kentucky. Operation UNITE provides substance abuse education programs, youth leadership development, and substance abuse counselors in middle and high schools.

  • Mallory Hamilton, Northland Coalition/Youth With Vision of Liberty, MO. Mallory helps raise awareness of the dangers of youth drug use and underage drinking through social marketing campaigns. She opposed a retailer's practice of marketing clothing to teens that contained images and messages condoning drug and alcohol use. She also led efforts to prevent the marketing of "alcopops," alcoholic energy drinks to teen audiences.

  • Sara Johnson of Farmington Hills, MI. Johnson started using drugs and alcohol at the age of 12. Sara started using marijuana and abused prescription drugs because she heard they could help her concentrate in school and lose weight. She began pawning items to get money and began using illicit drugs. 

  • Carole Lankford, Vice Chairwoman, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of Pablo, MT. Lankford works to eliminate meth production, trafficking, and use in Indian country. She facilitates a partnership between the National Congress of American Indians, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the U.S. Depart. of the Interior, the U.S. Depart. of Health and Human Services, and the Partnership for a Drug Free America to bring culturally relevant and effective anti-meth messages to Indian country.

  • Joshua Lavarine, Jr., high school student in New Orleans. In 1998, De La Salle High of New Orleans became one of the first schools in the Nation to start random student drug testing. Within one year, the rate of positive drug tests had decreased by almost half. However, following Hurricane Katrina, De La Salle was forced to suspend its random testing program for several months as the city began to recover for the storm. When testing resumed, school staff were shocked to see the rate of positive tests had spiked to 8.4 percent. Today, two years after the testing program was reinstated, the rate of positive tests has fallen to only 1 percent.  

  • Linda Leathers from Nashville, TN. Leathers helped establish "The Next Door" in 2003 to meet the housing and support service needs of women re-entering society after crisis situations, such as drug addiction. Nearly 90 percent of the women in the program have dependent children, so Leathers started a program that focuses on family reunification. The program, Freedom Recovery Community, provides housing, counseling, mentoring, case management, recovery support, workforce development, spiritual support, and education for the women and children it serves. The Next Door is part of the Tennessee Access to Recovery program, and uses a voucher program served by both faith- and community-based organizations.

  • Steve Pasierb, President and CEO, Partnership for a Drug Free America (PDFA) from New York City. Pasierb helps leverage the expertise of the Nation's ad agencies and the research to produce science-based anti-drug ads in partnershp with the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign.

  • Chris Steffner, High School principal from Flemington, New Jersey. After starting random student drug testing at a high school, none of the 740 students in the testing pool tested positive during the 2005-2006 school year, demonstrating the significant deterrent effect of random student drug testing.