U.S. government endorsement of controversial drug rehabilitation programs to spark major protests
An editorial by Wesley Fager © August 24, 2003

In 2000 Jim Gilliland of the Miami Drug Coalition was shown film footage of the SAFE, Inc. teen drug rehabilitation program in Orlando, Florida by the news team of WAMI of Miami, TV. He was so disturbed by what he saw in this bizarre treatment program that he told reporter Alan Cohn that he was going to call for a state investigation of SAFE. But Florida's governor Jeb Bush was nonplused. Not only did subsequently write letter of endorsement for SAFE knowing of WAMI's explosive expose of SAFE, but next month he, along with the mayor of Orlando, will be a speaker at a function in Orlando hosted by SAFE as part of National Recovery Month--a program of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' (USDH&HS) Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The event is Charityforcharities.org Vegas in O'Town. What makes this story even more bizarre is that Anxley Miles of Safe, Inc. is the primary point of contact for the affair. Why is that so bizarre? Because Jim Gillaland, the man calling for an investigation of SAFE, was the point of contact for Florida's National Recovery Month in 2000!

It's really not hard to imagine SAFE working hand-in-had with USDH&HS (US Department of Health & Human Services). After all, The Seed which was Straight's immediate predecessor was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) which is one of the sub-institutes of the sprawling National Institute on Health (NIH) which, like SAMHSA, is under USDH&HS. The Seed cut short its attempts to be a national-level chain in the 1970s after the US Senate accused it of using North Korean-like brainwashing techniques to rehabilitate American kids and ordered NIDA to require Seed parents and kids to sign forms acknowledging that they were participating in human experimentation. Straight, Inc. was formed out of the ashes of The Seed's expansion programs and did become the national-level teen rehabilitation program that had evaded The Seed. In fact Straight became the world's largest juvenile rehabilitation program--and one of the world's most abusive, leaving a trail of 40 former clients dead by suicide. Former Drug Czar Robert DuPont, the NIDA director who administered The Seed contract, became a paid Straight consultant after leaving federal service and is now on the advisory board of Straight under its new name (Drug Free America Foundation) along with Jeb Bush, Jeb's wife Columba, Florida's lieutenant governor, Toni Jennings, and James McDonough, Florida's drug czar. Dr. DuPont, who is now in business with former DEA head Peter Bensinger, has testified in court deposition that it was his idea to make Straight a national program.

On August 14, 1992 Michael Scaletta, the director of Straight - Orlando, closed Straight - Orlando and opened SAFE - Orlando using Straight's clients, Straight's insurance policy, and leasing the facility from Straight. Loretta Parrish, formerly Straight-Orlando's marketing director, joined him, ultimately becoming the director of SAFE. A Florida state health department site visit of SAFE conducted between July 6 - 8 and July 13 - 15, 1993 found that during the 30 day period leading up to the state investigation there had been approximately 29 "reported" incidents of restraint while only 1 reported incidence of restraint at all other juvenile drug rehabs in the district combined! This cause stepped up scrutiny of SAFE by the state, but ended when SAFE sued the state forcing health officials to back away. One concession was that no state health worker familiar with the abuses of Straight would be allowed to inspect SAFE!

There is a strong religious overture to SAFE which causes concern amongst SAFE watchers in light of President Bush's faith-based initiative program. Two months ago Straight's former national clinical director Reverend Doctor Miller Newton settled for $6.5 million with a client who had been severely abused in his second-generation Straight called Kids of North Jersey. Today he calls himself Father Cassian and is listed here under a watchdog page for abusive priests of the Orthodox Catholic religion. SAMHSA under its Faith-Based and Community Initiative (FBCI) works closely with The White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives to implement President Bush's faith-based program. The Church of Scientology™'s Narconon® program seems to be fairing well under the President's initiative. Click here to see Clifton Mitchell, President Bush's Coordinator of Faith and Community Partners Initiative and special deputy to the director of SAMHSA's Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) speaking at Narconon's new Arrow center in Oklahoma. Recently Clifton Mitchell and Clark Carr, head of Narconon®, spoke in Washington, DC at a conference for black clergymen--the Project Bridges Faith Based Substance Abuse Treatment and Prevention Conference. There Mr. Mitchell thanked Mr. Carr and Narconon® for helping him do his job and encouraged others to visit Narconon® Arrowhead. Rev. Carlton N. Pressley (Senior Advisor for Religious Affairs to the D.C. mayor) gave a sermon in which he suggested people should send addicts to Narconon®. SAMHSA's National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information promotes Narconon® as can been seen here and here.

The Utah-based World Wide Association of Specialties Programs and Schools (WWASPS) is another controversial program that may be getting recognition from the federal sector. WWASPS operates programs both in America and in other countries. But over the last few years local governments and U.S. state department officials have investigated WWASPS-affiliated programs in Cancun, Mexico, the Czech Republic, Costa Rica and Samoa on charges of physical abuse and, sometimes, immigration violations. The programs in Cancun and the Czech Republic have subsequently closed and their owners have left those countries saying they feared unjust charges. The Samoan program has severed its affiliation with WWASPS. Government officials in Costa Rica recently arrested the director of the WWASPS-affiliated program there and informed its teen clients that they were free to leave. Several parents have complained to the US state department, but could the complaints be falling on deaf ears? Recently there was a riot at WWASPS' Dundee Ranch in Costa Rica and the program's director was arrested. Yet, just days before the US Embassy in Costa Rica had announced that the Drug Free America Foundation (formerly Straight, Inc) was cohosting a conference on drug policy leadership in San Jose, Costa Rica. (Melvin Sembler, Straight's founder, is currently the U.S. ambassador to Italy!) And then there is the TA Partnership. The Technical Assistance Partnership for Child and Family Mental Health (TA Partnership) is an initiative of SAMHSA's Center for Mental Health Services Administration (CMHS) working in collaboration with the US Department of Education, Department of Justice and others. Last March a TA Partnership news brief wrote about a joint initiative of WWASPS' marketing arm Teen Help and WWASPS parents.

All of this brings us back to Jeb Bush, SAFE, Inc. and Charityforcharities.org Vegas in O'Town--one of Florida's gala money-raising events to support SAMHSA's National Recovery Month. Awkwardly this event will occur on a Thursday evening after work--not a Saturday or Sunday. And there is a reason for that. It's 9-11! The people who want to perpetuate the concept that there is a war on drugs have now declared that the War on Terrorism and the War on Drugs are one-in-the-same. And while we do acknowledge that the Taliban has used money from its trade in heroin to support its dastardly business, the co-mingling of the War on Terrorism and the phony War on Drugs is a cheap shot by drug warriors to support their cause. Shame on them for using the hallowed date of September 11 to support their efforts to raise money to run drug rehabilitation programs--more especially if any of those programs are destructive, ineffective or used to increase church membership.

There will be 3,500 people at September 11th's Charityforcharities.org Vegas in O'Town in Orlando and we intend on protesting that event in the name of survivors of controversial drug rehabilitation programs of all sorts. The protest will move to selected sites in Pinellas County, Florida on Friday, September 12. Please join us for this very important protest.

Press Release
Related article: The SAFE story