COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - When the Just Say No program was created by Nancy Reagan, it launched a major battle against drugs in schools and out in Los Angeles.
The program led to the start of the D.A.R.E. program, an extensive, and later, controversial, program that still exists today.
D.A.R.E., or Drug Abuse Resistance Education, was created by Los Angeles police chief Darryl Gates and eventually caught on nationwide with lots of federal funding. Police departments across the country and even internationally had their own versions.
D.A.R.E. put police officers into schools and helped them engage with young people to learn how to stand up against drug use.
"It's adapted over the years," Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said. "I think when it very first started it was going there and just teaching to say no to drugs. And we saw that we needed to do more so it's changed over the years and it changes constantly. It's being evaluated by academics and law enforcement and by the kids. We get so much input from the kids. That's what drives this whole DARE program is the kids."
Critics have targeted D.A.R.E. for being extremely expensive, costing hundreds of millions and perhaps upwards of a billion dollars with no measurable impact on drug use by young people.
However, Lott insists D.A.R.E. has been effective.
While state and federal funding have tailed off, he says the program is still worthy of being paid for through private sources and fundraising efforts in the community.