Drug Free America Foundation
(formerly Straight, Inc.),
Earlier this week the DFAF (Drug Free America Foundation) and the DPNA (Drug Prevention Network of the Americas) hosted a demand reduction conference in San Jose, Costa Rica. But you won't find an announcement on DFAF's web page. This fall the international drug policy community will be back in Italy to run another conference. If you go to the conference web page there's a picture of DFAF founders Mel and Betty Sembler, and a woman who appears to be Calvina Fay, director of DFAF, yet again, there is no mention of the upcoming conference on DFAF's web page. The DFAF is doing things all over the world, all the time, but you almost have to be an insider or an intelligence officer to figure out what they are up to because they don't broadcast it well. In fact, DFAF's web page is so boring and uninformative that many of us don't bother going there anymore. It just doesn't say anything.
Duh. Could Betty Sembler be far smarter than anyone ever imagined? Could she be using DFAF's web presence now as floundering whale or even as a red herring to throw a curve to her many detractors? Could she actually be working her magic through another organization? How about DPNA?
For 17 years Mel and Betty Sembler operated a juvenile drug rehabilitation chain for white children known as Straight, Inc., but Straight was accused of child abuse everywhere it went. [See professionals comment on Straight; Straight and newspaper headlines; and Straight and court cases.] Finally Straight stopped treating kids for addictions, but the Semblers apparently feel that the experience they have gained in treating kids for drug addiction, plus the political and professional contacts they have made over those 17 years, uniquely qualifies them to set national and international drug policy. Today, instead of treating kids for addictions, Straight helps small businesses setup drug free workplace environments; and it appears to work to realize the Semblers' ambition to help establish national and international drug policy. Along the way Straight changed its name to the DFAF. For 17 years parents paid service fees, and raised money to help needy kids get the Straight treatment. Often hard to come by money like the $14,000 Paul Riffle's mother was ordered to pay Straight by a court even though Paul had committed suicide after his treatment. (Ms. Riffle had to consider bankruptcy.) Now it appears that those funds, supplemented by grants, including at least one federal grant, may be used to provide for drug free workplace environments, and/or possibly to rent hotel space and fly drug policy experts to conferences all over the world.
Last year the Oakton Institute released the report A STUDY OF THE INVOLVEMENT OF THE DRUG FREE AMERICA FOUNDATION, INC. (formerly Straight Foundation, Inc.) IN AMERICAN AND INTERNATIONAL DRUG POLICY. Since that time the Oakton Institute has published other reports involving the Semblers' national and international plans. For example the Institute reported on the Semblers' drug policy summit with the Italians in Rome last year. The original intent of this current report had been to update last year's report. But as research for this report progressed, a pattern started to emerge; namely, if you want to learn what DFAF is doing, don't ask them; ask DPNA. Thus this report serves two purposes: 1. It is an update to last year's report. 2. It seeks to answer the question "what is DFAF's relationship with DPNA?".
On April 26-29, 2001 DFAF and DPNA sponsored a conference in Saint Petersburg, Florida, Sembler's hometown, called the "International Task Force Development on Strategic Policy." Attendees came from members of the International Scientific and Medical Forum on Drug Abuse and the Institute on Global Drug Policy (both are DFAF subsidiaries), from DPNA, and from a "small group of prominent leaders from Latin America." The purpose of the conference was to train an international task force on drug policy and also to develop strategies to oppose the international campaign to legalize drugs. The task force planned its next international conference to be in Vancouver, Canada. This conference occurred on May 1-3, 2002 and was cosponsored by DFAF and IDEAS, an organization formed by wealthy Canadian real-estate moguls Robert and Lynda Bentall. Shortly after this conference it was announced that there is a movement to establish a Straight-legacy treatment program for kids in Vancouver. The Oakton Institute has previously reported that on May 24, 2002 the party moved to Villa Taverna, Mel Sembler's house in Rome, where the Semblers and DFAF hosted a drug policy summit with the Italians. At that party was Ms. Stephanie Haynes, president of DPNA, and Calvina Fay, director of DFAF. Both are former presidents of Drug Watch International.
Next, a series of DFAF/DPNA sponsored drug policy seminars were held in South America:
DPNA and GDPN So what is DPNA? In 1994
a conference of Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) dedicated to the demand
reduction of drug use was convened in Bangkok, Thailand. Out of this conference
DPNA (or RIPRED in Spanish) was formed to be a coalition of NGOs from
North and South America dedicated to the demand reduction of drugs. Since
then DPNA has been a leader in setting up a series of global conferences
on drug demand reduction. GDPN (Global Drug Prevention Network)
was established after the third global conference to be an international
body to coordinate the exchange of efforts and resources between nations.
Stephanie Haynes is the president of DPNA. She is also a special advisor
to DFAF and also a member of DFAF's Institute on Global Drug Policy.
On DPNA's web page there is a section on network links which include
links to the world, the America's, Asia-Pacific, Europe, etc. And though
DPNA is the "drug prevention network of the Americas", the "America's"
link points to DFAF!
George W. Bush and the Texas connection The US state department is one DPNA sponsor, there are five others. All are in the US. Three are in Texas. They are centers at Texas A&M University and at Southwest Texas State University, and the Texas Department of Health. Stephanie Haynes was appointed by then Governor George Bush to the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse. She is on the Texas Drug Demand Reduction Advisory Committee. She is past chairman of the Board of Texans War on Drugs. She was a member of the Texas Summit Drug Prevention Committee. Ms. Haynes is a past president of Drug Watch International. Fellow Texan Calvina Fay is a past president of Drug Watch International. According to the Houston Press Ms. Fay used to run her own drug testing company before becoming the executive director of the Houston Drug-Free Business Initiative, a nonprofit working to eliminate drug use in the workplace. Drug Screen Inc., a drug-testing company, was a charter sponsor of HDFBI. Today Ms. Fay is the director of DFAF. Former Governor of Texas George W. Bush's Department of Health teamed up with DFAF for at least one drug policy initiative. His mother former First Lady Barbara Bush has helped hawk a film for DFAF. Mel Sembler was the national finance chairman for the GOP when George W. Bush ran for president; Betty was his Jeb Bush's finance cochairman. From the March 2003 DPNA newsletter we learn that an organization in Brazil has launched a George Bush-inspired "faith-based" initiative to deal with demand reduction.
Conclusion. So what does all this mean,
if anything. We know that DFAF is doing things all over the world but
it is sometimes difficult to decipher just what, where and when. We know
that DFAF performs many activities with DPNA and that the activities are
advertised by DPNA, but not by DFAF. We know that the president of DPNA
is tied to DFAF. And we know other things suggesting, at least, close
ties between the two. Just how deep the bond actually goes we may never
know. But we do know that Mel and Betty Sembler are determined to make
their stamp on national and international drug policy and the best we
can do for now to monitor their actions is to turn to DPNA, not DFAF.
Actually, DPNA satellites its web page off of the GDPN's web site. GDPN
is another resource to use to learn what DFAF is up to these days. So
if you want to be apprised of DFAF activities, tune to DPNA
and GDPN, not DFAF.
And best of all DPNA/GDPN have an open discussion
forum and chat