Temple Times Online Edition
    JANUARY 19, 2006
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SSA hosts White House videoconference aimed at stemming drug trade

By hosting a White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) videoconference for the Philadelphia region on Dec. 13, the School of Social Administration played a significant role in helping local policymakers to formulate updated drug control strategies.

Among the most pressing concerns that Philadelphia officials heard about at the videoconference, according to Temple social work professor and conference co-moderator Marsha Zibalese-Crawford is the need to stem the infiltration of methamphetamine into the region’s illicit drug market. Abuse of the highly addictive drug has become rampant in the rural South and Midwest, prompting Congress to consider a proposal in mid-December that sought to regulate sales of over-the-counter cold medicines that can be used to cook up methamphetamine in homemade labs.

“We heard from our counterparts in other cities who were wishing that they had done greater preparation before meth hit their areas,” Zibalese-Crawford said. “The suggestion was clear that Philadelphia should start thinking about these issues now. It can be as simple as the need for training among social workers and social service providers to be able to recognize the signs of meth addiction.”

The videoconference was part of the ONDCP’s Major Cities Initiative, an effort to unite researchers, law enforcement officials, lawmakers and drug prevention and treatment experts in 25 American cities as they develop holistic solutions to drug abuse. More than 50 local officials attended, among them representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Camden Prosecutor’s Office.

“One of the most promising outcomes of this meeting is a closer working relationship on drug issues between officials in Camden and Philadelphia,” Zibalese-Crawford said.

Temple was selected to host the Philadelphia region’s meeting thanks in part to its ties to Nataki MacMurray, an ONDCP policy analyst in Washington, D.C., and SSA alumnus.

MacMurray, who was a student in the first class that Zibalese-Crawford taught at Temple, has long been interested in the professor’s research for Philadelphia Safe and Sound, a study that provides an annual assessment of the well-being of Philadelphia children. (Substance abuse is one of the many factors rated in the project’s yearly review.)

“I credit my experience at Temple SSA for igniting a passion for social justice, a critical eye for social policy and a deep appreciation for grassroots momentum,” MacMurray wrote in an e-mail.

“I see my position in a White House agency as a responsibility to advocate for the disempowered and disenfranchised rather than as an opportunity for my own personal gain, uplift or advancement.”

Jerry Daley, another Temple alumnus and the executive director for the Philadelphia-Camden High Intensity Drug Trafficking Agency, joined Zibalese-Crawford as co-moderator for the videoconference.

- By Ted Boscia