Health & Beauty | November 2009
|Texas Agency Refuses to Make Community Drug Use Data Available Online|
November 10, 2009
Craig Johnson, executive director of the drug prevention nonprofit ProtectYouth.org, called on Commissioner David Lakey of the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to authorize the publishing of local school district results from the Texas School Survey on Drug and Alcohol Use to a document-sharing website Scribd.com and link the reports to their state website. In an October 30th email refusing Mr. Johnson's request, DSHS General Counsel Lisa Hernandez stated on behalf of Commissioner David Lakey:
|The Partnership for a Drug-Free America offers resources and support to help families lead healthy, drug-free lives - www.drugfree.org|
While the Department is required to maintain drug use trends among youth in Texas, the State Wide Survey Report is maintained on the DSHS public website. The department will not be publishing the Part I District Surveys, Part III Executive Summaries and the Methodology and Validity Analysis reports on the Scribd.com web-site you proposed. This website is not approved by the Department of Information Resources, which mandates what state agency information technology commodities can be used.
Though Commissioner Lakey's office upon repeated inquiry would not cite the exact official policy preventing them from utilizing the popular document-sharing website or similar tool to deliver the drug trend survey data, DSHS has made frequent use of the video-sharing website YouTube.com to promote their public service announcements for their state-funded and supervised Partnership for Drug-Free Texas campaign.
The Texas Department of State Health Services and their contractor at Texas A&M University (the Public Policy Research Institute) have in their possession the nation's largest library of thousands of local school district survey reports on youth substance use trends, which accompany the statewide Texas School Survey of Substance Use. Before it became apart of DSHS in September 2004, the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (TCADA) coordinated the Texas School Survey program with the Public Policy Research Institute at Texas A&M University. Despite the survey reports costing taxpayers millions of dollars over the past two decades, very little information from the local survey reports have been made available to parents or the general public and their availability is not noted anywhere on the DSHS website. Even though the biennial statewide results from the Texas School Survey of Substance Use are published online, the accompanying methodology reports have never been made available to the public on a state website.
According to Mr. Johnson, DSHS refusal to publish these reports apparently reflects a long trend of past efforts to keep parents and the rest of the public ignorant of drug use trends among youth in their communities.
"Parents and other concerned citizens deserve more openness from DSHS and their contractor at Texas A&M University when it comes to substance use trends among youth in our communities. Even when legally obligated to provide the survey reports under the Texas Public Information Act, DSHS and Texas A&M have gone out of their way to avoid their disclosure," said Mr. Johnson. "Some of the obstructive actions on their part include falsely denying possession of the survey reports and attempts at obtaining public disclosure exemptions from the Texas Attorney General."
In June 2009, the General Counsel Office for Texas A&M University announced their intention of copyrighting the 2009 Texas School Survey reports for the first time in the program's twenty year history to avoid providing copies to the public. One of the legal advisors with the General Counsel Office at Texas A&M University is Jay Kimbrough, a former executive director of TCADA during June 2001 - May 2002, who was also appointed by then-Governor George W. Bush to oversee the conservatorship of TCADA during the mid-1990's. According to a 1996 Texas Sunset Advisory Commission report, "Serious fiscal mismanagement and a poor response to problems led TCADA to become the first agency in state history to be placed under conservatorship." Source: PDF
See also Mr. Johnson's public information request correspondence with Texas A&M University, the Texas Department of State Health Services and the Texas Attorney General. Click here.
ProtectYouth.org works to promote evidence-based solutions to reducing the harmful influence of the unregulated marijuana market, the root to many of the drug problems afflicting our youth and communities. Contact: Craig Johnson, ProtectYouth.org, Executive Director - 469-733-6769, craig(at)protectyouth.org