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July 2005
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HEA drug provision properly derided

An excellent OpEd from Ruth Blauer, executive director of the Maine Association of Substance Abuse Programs, in the Sun Journal. Link
I admit that I have sometimes questioned the motives of some drug treatment professionals (see anything I’ve said about Andrea Barthwell), but Ruth seems to be the real deal, and she nails the HEA drug provision that prevents students from receiving federal financial aid if they’ve had a drug conviction.

Perhaps the most detrimental legislatively erected barrier is the law that denies college financial aid to people with drug convictions on their records. Blocking access to education is both senseless and harmful to those who are in recovery, as well as to their families, friends, neighbors and society at-large.

This policy, which has barred more than 160,500 would-be students from receiving aid, is the result of a provision added to the 1998 Higher Education Act. Lawmakers from Maine and around the country should work to repeal the HEA drug provision and help affected students get back into school as soon as possible.

Preventing people from higher education does nothing to prevent drug abuse or help people get over their addictions. Actually, being enrolled in college reduces the likelihood that people will head down the path to drug abuse. […]

Additionally, receiving an education reduces the likelihood that individuals coming out of prison will return to engaging in illegal activity, including drug use. […]

Lawmakers should encourage people returning to communities from prison or struggling with addiction to move beyond their stumbling blocks, but the HEA drug provision threatens their chances of becoming productive members of society. Graduating more college students means increased tax revenue from greater economic productivity, whereas incarcerating more prisoners means that taxpayers must pay the bill for increased criminal justice spending.

Quote of the day:

The drug provision is not a deterrent to drug use; it’s a deterrent to recovery.

[Thanks to Tom Angell]

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