BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) – A program that teaches fifth graders about the dangers of drugs, gang violence and peer pressure is running on limited funds.
The Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, or D.A.R.E., has been going strong in Brown County since the early 80’s but has faced a big funding setback this year.
Kevin Vanden Heuvel, a former D.A.R.E. officer, and Early Fuller were charged with stealing funds from the D.A.R.E. program by selling fake parking passes at packers home games.
Investigators believe the pair pocketed between $70,000 AND $200,000 from those sales.
Vanden Heuvel was sentenced in June to two years in prison and seven years supervision. Fuller was sentenced last month to three years’ probation, 60 days in jail as a condition of that probation, and must pay $3,500 in restitution.
The brown County Sheriff’s Office said Vanden Heuvel and Fuller left the D.A.R.E. fund with enough money to cover the program for a few years. In the past they’ve told us, they don’t feel comfortable asking for funds from the public because of Vanden Heuvel’s actions.
The county board said they have a renewed trust in the program and to prove it, they would like to financially help the D.A.R.E. program for one year.
Ever since the arrest and conviction of Vanden Heuvel, the D.A.R.E. program has been operating at about 50 percent. The office currently has one D.A.R.E. officer teaching classes, instead of two.
In an email Monday Brown County Sheriff John Gossage said they currently have about $627,000 in the D.A.R.E. fund.
With an annual cost of $125,000 per officer, the sheriff’s office will be able to continue to provide services for about five years with one officer. However, they won’t be reaching as many students as they have in the past.
According to Captain Jody Lemmens, with one officer the D.A.R.E. program is reaching about 1,000 students. With two, the program would reach about 2,200 students.
“Everybody thinks the program is worthwhile, but the funding for it has been knocked backwards,” said Guy Zima, Brown County Board Supervisor.
To help get the D.A.R.E. program back on track, the county board is asking the executive committee to allow them to fund one of the D.A.R.E. positions up to $100,000 for one year.
“We just felt the county should show our renewed belief in it and help out by funding one of the two positions,” said Zima.
Sheriff Gossage said the D.A.R.E. program hasn’t been tax-payer funded since the late 1990s, but Zima said the county board understands the setback and believes in the importance of the program.
“So much money was embezzled and it hurt the program,” said Zima.
The executive committee approved the motion and it now heads to their budget meeting on November 2.