HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The DARE program has been in Hawaii public schools for more than 25 years. But the program will be taking a huge hit because of budget cuts.
DARE -- which stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education -- expanded quickly on Oahu after it was started in 1985, and currently is in virtually every elementary school on Oahu. Specially trained officers go into classes to teach kids about the dangers of drug abuse.
But its presence is being reduced because there isn't enough funding to keep it at current levels.
"We consolidated some of our divisions and made it more efficient," said Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha. "And when we looked at DARE, what we wanted to do is just reduce the amount of schools that we went out to."
Kealoha says the cuts are unfortunate, but some tough budget decisions had to be made.
"When I was first appointed to chief, I knew about the challenges to the budget, so what we started to do was evaluate all of our programs, our support programs, our law enforcement initiative programs," Kealoha said.
There are currently 15 officers assigned to DARE, which HPD said costs more than $1 million in salaries each year.
"We're going to put those resources back into our core services, which is public safety, law enforcement, to keep our neighborhoods safe," Kealoha said.
There are 120 elementary schools with a DARE curriculum on Oahu. There will be funding for only 41 schools in the current budget.
Kealoha said DARE will concentrate on schools that are in areas with a higher risk for drug abuse.
The cuts will also drastically reduce the program's visibility, especially at the annual DARE Rally held at the end of the school year. This year's event may be the last one.
"The rally that we have at the end of the year is the largest in the nation," Kealoha said. "It's unfortunate, but if we can get the money to do that, then we'll do it.
Some have questioned the effectiveness of DARE nationwide. But the chief said the program is being cut back only because of money.
"It has worked," Kealoha said. "I, too, am a DARE instructor. I did the DARE program for my child, my daughter, and so I believe in the program. But these are tough times, and we need to look at our organization to make it run more efficient and effective."
No decision has been made yet on which schools will continue the program.