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School Drug Abuse Program Cut Federal, State Money Dries Up, Forcing 11 Layoffs, Elimination Of Operation Aware

Eleven staff members who work in Spokane schools to prevent drug and alcohol abuse were laid off Wednesday because state and federal money for the program has dried up.

The layoffs, approved Wednesday by the Spokane School Board, eliminate Operation Aware in elementary schools.

Also laid off were five out of nine drug and alcohol specialists at high schools and middle schools.

The four remaining staff members will focus on middle schools.

Cuts of $255,000 to state and federal drug prevention programs caused the layoffs, District 81 officials said.

“At the state and federal level these cuts are somewhat of an abstraction, but when it gets to this table it becomes services to people,” said Superintendent Gary Livingston.

The district may get grant money to bring back some positions.

“I hate this. I despise this. And there’s more coming,” said Ed Gaffney, district supervisor of the programs.

More layoffs may be coming in the federal Jobs Training Partnership Act program.

Operation Aware taught children in grades 3-5 about making good decisions.

“Rising juvenile crime is a complex problem. What is certain is that these problems can be devastating to communities,” said Pam Freeman, a laid-off Operation Aware instructor.

“I feel our best chance of making a difference is to work with these kids when they’re young.”

, DataTimes

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