Folks at downtown’s Ronstadt Transit Center on Tuesday afternoon had a way to make a quick $300.
The only stipulation was that the people be drug addicts or alcoholics who agree to long-term birth control.
The group Project Prevention, started by Barbara Harris in 1997, has so far paid more than 2, 800 men and women across the nation.
Harris, who hails from Harrisburg, N.C., was in Tucson with the group’s Fresno, Calif., chapter leader Stephanie Cruz to spread the word of their program in Old Pueblo.
The nonprofit’s mission is to stop the wave of babies that are born addicted, unwanted or with health problems associated with their mother’s or father’s substance abuse.
“It’s a terrible problem here in this city,” said Tucsonan Natalie McGee, the woman who invited the group to town. “We have an enormous drug problem on the border and this is the main corridor.”
McGee, who volunteers for several children’s organizations, such as In My Shoes Inc., CASA and the state’s Foster Care Review Board, sees some of the horror first hand.
“So many children are being abused and dying,” said McGee, 59. “Their parents did heroin and crack and cocaine and they never live to see their first year.”
Both Harris, 56, and Cruz, 51, adopted babies that were born to either alcoholics or addicts. Harris has four adopted children. Cruz has eight.
The first one Cruz adopted was her sister’s baby.
“My sister was a drug addict,” Cruz said. “She gave birth when she was four and a half months pregnant. The baby weighed 1 pound 8 ounces, needed a feeding tube and had his intestines on the outside of his body.”
The child is now 17 years old and doing fine, as are the rest of her adopted children, but Cruz said there has been a lot of work and a lot of medical care involved.
While none of the folks at the Ronstadt Center said they were drug addicts or alcoholics, all were eager to take a flier and learn more about Project Prevention.
“I think it’s good,” said Nikkitta Stephens, 19. “It will get more people on birth control so they won’t have unwanted kids.”
Lettie Wofford, 32, agreed. “Those babies come all deformed and stuff,” she said.
Camron McAllister, 22, was at the bus station with his new baby, 3-month-old Bryant Andrew McAllister. While he said Bryant was a “pleasant surprise,” he also knew several people who could benefit from the program. “It’s a good idea,” he said.
Harris said the reception everywhere they go mirrors the one received in Tucson, with very little opposition.
Acceptable long-term birth control includes tubal ligation, Depo Provera shots and IUDs for women, or a vasectomy for men.
The group verifies that the person is, in fact, an addict or alcoholic and that the procedure has been completed before any money is paid.
“Those who oppose what we’re doing should be willing to step up and adopt a few of the babies,” Harris said. “These women can’t raise these children.”
For more information, call 888-30-CRACK or visit www.projectprevention.org.
This article originally appeared in the Dec. 17, 2008, issue of the Tucson Citizen newspaper.