Memorial Day Part II: The Real Story in DC, or my evening with a White House staffer

Happy Memorial Day to everyone!  Although it is Memorial Day, much of the festivities took place yesterday.  But I wanted to write about another experience I had today that struck a chord in me.  Amidst all the scandals and natural disasters that make headlines across the country, often missed are the smaller policies that are implemented every day that affect the communities that we live in.  Tonight I was at a friends barbecue when I happened to meet a former Badger that now works for the White House!  After introductions, he proceeded to describe to me the community drug prevention policy being pursued by the White House.  The following is an excerpt, the rest can be found here:

It stresses family-based treatment programs that promote family stability and help disrupt the cycle of inter generational substance abuse…this new blueprint emphasizes community-wide strategies to create environments that support healthy decisions. Prevention is a consistent theme running through all of this Administration’s efforts to improve public health, from the Recovery Act to the Affordable Care Act, and this blueprint is no exception. The National Drug Control Strategy supports a comprehensive community prevention system, including mentoring initiatives, so kids at risk can stay drug-free with the support of their peers. It also targets screening and early intervention so we can avoid the enormous human and economic costs of full blown addiction.

If you made it through the entire quote, you’ll know that the drug policy focuses on prevention by using those around addicts that love and care for them to end the vicious cycle of addiction.  Family and community efforts are what we need to begin to address this issue.  The staffer also related to me that the program is designed to be self-sustaining, with the federal government footing the initial costs of development, but passing off financial management of the program to local and state governments after a period of ten years.  For example, Madison could receive $125,000 a year for ten years to develop community programs targeted at helping address drug addictions in many of its neighborhood.  And let me also say this; all the information here is available online.  This isn’t just some insider story.

I was struck by this because it’s often very easy to see only the Joe Sestak’s or Elena Kagan stories and miss out on these smaller policy decisions that have the chance to be highly impactful.  This is why I want to work out in DC; to help produce real change that will affect real people.  Not to be a part of the drama, although I certainly acknowledge it does exist.  I just wish that the media focused more on stories such as this that have the potential to truly help make this country better by tapping into what has traditionally been our civic and community strength.

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Regarding Memorial Day Festivities, my roommate and I ran 3 miles to the white house and back in order to catch the National Memorial Day parade.  The honorary grand marshals were wounded soldiers and Gary Sinese from Forest Gump acclaim.  No, I did not take this picture, but Patrick and I did make enough noise to get him to wave directly to us. One of life’s little thrills

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