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New program to replace D.A.R.E.

COVINGTON - The Newton County Sheriff's Office is initiating a new program called C.H.A.M.P.S. (Choosing Healthy Activities and Methods Promoting Safety) to replace D.A.R.E.

C.H.A.M.P.S. will target fifth-graders, teaching them about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and other drugs. It will also address peer pressure, bullying and computer safety. The year-long program will contain 19 lesson plans.

"It is a well-rounded program that will include having three deputy sheriffs conduct one-hour sessions throughout the district," according to a press release issued by Sheriff Ezell Brown. "C.H.A.M.P.S. instructors will offer fifth graders interesting ways to deal with the growing number of problems and topics facing them each day."

D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) was discontinued earlier this year. The program was sponsored for more than 20 years by the Covington Police Department and the Newton County Sheriff's Office.

When the Police Department canceled the program due to funding constraints, Brown said he began searching for a suitable alternative, settling on the C.H.A.M.P.S. curriculum developed by the Georgia Sheriff's Association.

The program will cost about $200,000 per year to operate, Brown said. He said there are unused funds leftover from the 2008-2009 budget that will be used as seed money and the Sheriff's Office will be seeking sponsors and donors for additional funds.

The program's headquarters are located in the old jail on Stallings Street, where D.A.R.E. was previously located. Both the Board of Commissioners and Newton County School System are in support of the program, Brown said.

For more information on C.H.A.M.P.S., contact the Sheriff's Office at 678-625-1400 or visit www.newtonsheriffga.org.

In addition to C.H.A.M.P.S., Brown plans to move several other divisions into the old jail in the next six months, including the Office of Professional Standards.

The division was instituted by Brown after he took office earlier this year to oversee policies and procedures of the department, handle any policy violations by employees and guide the department toward national accreditation.

School resource officers will also be moved to the building, along with community outreach programs such as Neighborhood Watch, Brown said.

The work release program will continue to operate out of the jail portion of the facility.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.