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Spanish and Portuguese Groups Ask Community Control of Drug Program

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Two community groups in Cambridge are planning a class action suit against the Cambridge Coordinating Committee on Drugs (CCCD) to half a proposed drug program.

The suit is over a proposal by the CCCD to the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) for a million-dollar grant to treat drug abuse in Cambridge.

The Cambridge Spanish Council (CSC) and the Cambridge Organization of Portuguese Americans (COPA) have attacked the proposal, claiming that it fails to provide adequately for foreign-speaking residents.

The CSC and COPA want the current request revised to include a bilingual staff at all levels of the program.

Natalie O'Connor, director of the CSC, said yesterday. "The suit will charge the CCCD with violating Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act which makes Federal assistance available only in programs with no discrimination against race, color, or national origin.

Title VI reads that where "national origin minority groups" are involved--as in Cambridge--special measures to deal with the language problem must be undertaken.

Cambridge District Court Judge Lawrence F. Feloney '43, a CCCD board member, said the CCCD plans to have some bilingual staff member if its proposal is accepted. "If we are funded, we will have foreign-speaking representatives to broaden the community base which hasn't been complete so far." Feloney said.

Aurelio Torres, COPA's executive director, said yesterday that without Portuguese and Spanish participation in the planning and implementation of the drug program it will not be able to adequately service the community.

The CCCD is an umbrella organization formed last year which seeks to oversee and coordinate drug problems in Cambridge. Their proposal includes plans for methadone treatment, intensive residential treatment, and hiring ex-addicts as counselors.

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