Drug Free America Foundation (formerly Straight, Inc.),
Drug Prevention Network of the Americas and
worldwide demand reduction

by Wesley Fager
Oakton Institute for Cultic Studies
May 29, 2003 (c) 2003

DFAF has a dark past, so why has DPNA's Stephanie Haynes teamed with it?

It's wrong for kids to use illegal drugs; it's worse for adults to abuse children under any circumstance. Stephanie Haynes is president of Drug Prevention Network of the Americas (DPNA). In 1996 Texas Governor George W. Bush appointed Ms. Haynes of Alpine, Texas to the board of directors of the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (TCADA). Five years before, on August 8, 1991 TCADA notified officials at Straight, Inc. (a juvenile drug rehabilitation center in Dallas) of its intent to revoke Straight's license. The TCADA letter stated, "It has been determined that Straight, Inc. has consistently failed to abide by the requirements of law ... Among violations cited were: the unsupervised dispensing of medications; treating clients who did not meet Straight's criteria of being chemically dependent or being in danger of becoming chemically dependent; forcing clients to sleep in beds with other clients; failing to care for injured clients; and restraining clients with nylon rope. It was noted that at least one [host home] family failed to provide proper bathroom facilities for the clients of Straight giving them only a container to urinate in during the night."

But TCADA was soft on Straight-Dallas compared to John Hurst of the LA Times after his interview with Straigth spokesperson Joy Margolis. His comments are here.

In 1989 TCADA revoked the license of another juvenile rehab--this one called Kids of El Paso. TCADA commissioner Bob Dickson explained to a reporter on CBS' West 57th Street [1-21-89] why. "The violations that we found when we investigated," he told her, "were overwhelmingly of violations of civil rights and safety and health and people being held against their will, sleep deprivation, restraint, seclusion, things like that." Kids of El Paso had been founded by Dr. Miller Newton, Straight's former national clinical director.

And it wasn't just in Texas that Straight and Kids were accussed of child abuse. Dr. Newton ran a Kids program in California. When state authorities closed him there, Straight moved in and took over his clients. A year later state authorities closed Straight there citing, "Documentation on file indicates that there have been incidents where children have been subjected [to] unusual punishment, infliction of pain, humiliation, intimidation, ridicule, coercion, threat, mental abuse or other actions of a punitive nature, including . . . interference with daily living functions such as eating, sleeping or toileting, or withholding of medication. [From a letter dated June 27, 1990 from Fred Dumont, Santa Ana, California District Manager for Dept. of Social Services to Straight, National Headquarters.]

In fact, Kids and Straight were closed down all over the place. In 2000 Dr. Newton settled with one former female client for $4.5 million for abuses she sustained at Kids in New Jersey. A few months after a DFAF/DPNA planned summit in Vancouver in 2002, AARC (a Straight-legacy program in Canada) announced there had been a call to establish an AARC in Vancouver. [Straight's abuse is well documented: see professionals comment on Straight; Straight and newspaper headlines; and Straight and court cases.]

Many Straight, Inc. newcomers had faces caked with dried spit. Kids were made to soil their pants and urinate on themselves. Sick kids vomited in a common pail and menstruating girls sometimes soiled their clothes with blood. Straight literature claimed that kids used drugs because they had low self esteem, and then Straight robbed them of any self esteem they had left.

So what does this have to do with Stephanie Haynes. In 1993 Straight got out of the treatment business and perhaps uses the money it gained from treatment, plus federal and private grants, to work to determine national and international drug policy. In 1995 Straight changed its name to Drug Free America Foundation (DFAF). Stephanie Haynes joined another Betty Sembler foundation, S.O.S. ™. Today Ms. Haynes, DPNA and DFAF are partners in drug policy initiatives all over the world. And George W. Bush, the man who appointed Stephanie to the TCADA, how does he fit in? DFAF founder Mel Sembler was the finance chairman of the GOP when George Bush ran for president. George Bush made him our ambassador to Italy and Ms. Haynes attended a drug policy summit at Mel's house in Rome. What's more, Mel's wife Betty, another DFAF founder, was Jeb Bush's finance cochairman. At the recommendation of DFAF, Governor Jeb Bush named a day in Florida for Betty Sembler, in part for the work she did at Straight! So Stephanie, why have you teamed up with the Semblers?

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:

  • September 12-14, 2002, Sound Drug Policies, Montevideo, Uruguay
  • September 20-21, 2002, Preventive Drug Education, Medellín, Colombia
  • September 26-27, 2002, Drug Prevention Education, Mexico City, Mexico
  • October 24-25, 2002, NGO Coalition Building, Santiago de Chile, Chile
  • October 28-30, 2002, Sound Drug Policies, Lima – Peru
  • November 13-14, 2002, Sound Drug Policies, Buenos Aires – Argentina
DFAF Drug Free America Fdn
(Calvina Fay)
... International Scientific and Medical Forum on Drug Abuse
  Institute on Global Drug Policy
DPNA Drug Prevention Network of the Americas
(Stephanie Haynes)
GDPN Global Drug Prevention Network

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!

The US State Department Connection

For an international movement formed from non-government organizations, the United States Department of State is a big endorser of DPNA, GDPN and DFAF as the following analysis will show. (One can only wonder what effect, if any, Ambassador Mel Sembler, who has purchased two ambassadorships, has had on this alliance.) The state department is a sponsor of DPNA. The state department co-funded the fourth global conference on demand reduction. The US and Japanese ambassadors to Peru were special guests at the first global conference on demand reduction. William Pope, deputy chief of the US embassy in Rome, was a special guest at the third global conference on demand reduction which was held in Palermo, Italy. [Sembler assumed duties in Rome six weeks after the third conference.] Last year's Italian summit was held at the residence of Ambassador Sembler. The DFAF conference in Chile was cosponsored by the US Embassy in Santiago. According to DPNA's web site DPNA member Father Harold Rahm "marveled at the insight of the U.S. Department of State, International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs for bringing" the PRIDE International Youth Programs to Paulinia, Brazil on September 20, 2002. Earlier this week the US embassy in Costa Rica cosponsored a DFAF/DPNA conference in San Jose. On September 22 - 26 the party will be back in Italy for a conference on drug prevention. Check out the announcement site. There's a picture of Mel, Betty and a woman in red who appears to be DFAF director Calvina Fay. (Could the woman on the left be Stephanie Haynes?)

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 room.