April 22, 1976: Straight, Incorporated was formed in St. Petersburg, Florida
According to the Articles of Incorporation, Straight, Inc. was formed as a corporation not for profit, for charitable and philanthropic purposes on April 22, 1976. Its specific purposes according to its Articles of Incorporation were to develop and administer programs for victims of drug abuse, dealing with rehabilitation, welfare, and health, in order to assist them in adjusting themselves to their environment; to train them in vocations and avocations; to aid them in all their activities; and to be of assistance in solving their particular problems, and to interest and unite men and women in social work for the welfare of boys and girls and young men and young women to the end that crime, poverty, and misery may be lessened, that a nobler manhood and womanhood may be developed, and that a more perfect love of home, family and country may be fostered, and to cooperate with all federal, state and local government agencies to secure these ends, utilizing all powers this corporation may exercise as granted it by Chapter 617, Florida Statutes.
The subscribers to these Articles of Incorporation are listed as:
Melvin F. Sembler
H. Goldstein, Ph.D.
The officers of the corporation are listed as:
PRESIDENT: Melvin F. Sembler
SECRETARY: Raymond Bourgholtzer (resigned in September, 1976)
TREASURER: Raymond Bourgholtzer
The Board of Directors are listed as:
H. Goldstein, Ph.D.
Leon Sellers, D.V.M.
R. C. Garby, M.D.
Robert E. Chapin (Resigned August 8, 1977)
Ruth E. Chapin (Resigned)
Mel F. Sembler
Betty S. Sembler
John E. White
Thomas E. Wykoff
Arthur W. Bauknight (Resigned September 22, 1976)
Lila L. Bauknight (Resigned July 20, 1977)
Under Article X. Miscellaneous in Straight, Inc.’s Articles of Incorporation, the following sections are included:
Section 1: No part of the net earnings of the corporation shall inure to the benefit of any individual or member.
Section 4: This Corporation is not organized for a pecuniary profit, it shall not have any power to issue certificates of stock or declare dividends, and no part of its net earnings shall inure to the benefit of any member, director, or individual. The balance, if any, of all money received by the corporation from its operators after the payment in full of all debts and obligations of the corporation, of whatever kind or nature, shall be used and distributed exclusively for charitable, scientific, and educational purposes in the fields of drug abuse education, prevention, control and education awareness.
It was signed by the three subscribers mentioned above, and Straight, Inc., named Dr. Leon H. Sellers, Jr. as its resident agent.
July 27, 1976 – The Evening Independent Ran a News Article about Straight, Inc.
Straight Inc. New Drug Program Set for Sept. 1.
By Staff Writer, Joe Childs
A new drug treatment program which will be almost totally dependent on support it gets from the community will begin Sept 1 to combat what has been called a fast-growing local teenage drug problem.
Aimed at youths 12 to 18 years old, the program called Straight, Inc. will strive to help drug abusers and drug offenders, not addicts or those with a physical dependence on narcotics. 1
The project’s backers, including a number of persons prominent in public and private life here, the week capped seven months of quiet organizing and fund-raising2 with the announcement that Straight, Inc. indeed will become a reality and by setting Sept. 1 as a target date for opening the facility.
The program now has a building, enough money to start and a director to steer its courses, supporters said.
Straight Inc. will be located at 700 43rd St. S. a two-story, former office building donated3 to the project. The facility is big enough to serve 200-300 clients, the eventual program goal.
Directing Straight, Inc. will be James E. Hartz, a 27-year-old clinical psychologist4 lured to St. Petersburg from Augusta, GA, where he set up a training center for mentally disabled persons.
Straight, Inc. will attempt to fill what is regarded as a void in the community’s drug treatment system. Judges and law enforcement officials supporting Straight from its inception have argued this community lacks a program for non-addicts.5 Chief Circuit Judge David Patterson, a major program backer, has said young drug offenders who are not hard-core users can only be referred to overloaded probation officers because no treatment facilities exits.
According to Hartz, Straight Inc. will provide a therapeutic environment where teenagers can resolve, in group sessions and individually, drug problems and other social trauma that may have led to experiences with drugs.6
Straight Inc. will accept youngsters who have had minor drug troubles and are stirring worry among parents, Hartz said. The program will also treat youths who have known extended drug use. In addition, Straight Inc. hopes to take court-referred drug offenders.7
The aim of the program is to work with teenagers by day at the facility. Participants will live in foster homes and eventually return to their own homes while still receiving treatment.
Parents will be required to take an active part in their child’s treatment. Straight Inc. plans to organize group sessions for parents, who will discuss their own family units. Siblings of program participants also will be involved, said Hartz.
Straight, Inc.’s ultimate treatment goal, Hartz said, is to turn a youngster away from drugs and encourage the youth to be a contributing member of society. The program’s staff will be six young adults who have experienced drugs and been helped by other treatment program. Like Hartz, they will be salaried employees.8
Funding of Straight, Inc. organizers hope, will continue to be supported by public and private donations. Revenue also will be generated by fee charge clients.
Dr. Leon Sellers, a veterinarian and founding father of the program estimated Straight Inc. will need at least $130,000 in its first year. He said the program would like to stay clear of government financing to avoid dependence, but may eventually be forced to seek public funds.9
The program’s eventual aim is to become self-supporting, reliant on client fees and a regular donation program. Fees for participants have not been determined yet, but likely will be in the neighborhood of $300 to $500, said Sellers. Families not able to pay that much will be allowed to pay what they can, he noted.10
My observations about this news article. Please tell what you think in the comments below. Do you agree? Or Disagree? Or have a different perspective, all together?
1, 5, 7 – In comments 1 & 5 they repeatedly speak of establishing a program for youth who are not addicts and who do not have a physical dependence on narcotics because the community lacks a program for non-addicts and young drug offenders who are not hard core.
Straight Inc. will accept youngsters who have had minor drug troubles and are stirring worry among parents, Hartz said. ß This statement comes the closest to being accurate (although they forgot to add or have not had any drug troubles and are stirring worry among parents) though you will never find a statement like this again in the history of the program because that would undermine the program’s biggest threat of the child ending up ‘Dead, Insane or in Jail,’ if they do not complete the program.
Then in that same paragraph it says ‘the program will also treat youths who have known extended drug use. In addition, Straight Inc. hopes to take court-referred drug offenders.’
This seems like a contradiction to the emphasis on non-addicts and minor drug troubles.
2 – Why was the organizing and fund-raising done quietly? If it is a program that is supposed to support the community and hopes to be supported by the community, and is a noble non-profit organization to help children in need, what is the reason for getting set up quietly? Is there something to hide?
3 & 9 – If they already have had a building that has been donated to them, their operating equipment is essentially, some old wooden benches or plastic chairs, an American flag and some poster board with the program steps (like AA steps) on them for the walls, and one office for the staff, the salaries for one ‘professional staff member’ and the rest are ‘para-professional staff members’ or high school or young adult aged kids who have been involved in previous programs, and utilities… then why on earth would they need $130,000 ‘1976-dollars’ to operate during the first year? Not to mention the parents fees, and all of their fundraising efforts and all of the donated help to get the donated building ready. They had so much donated to them, I can’t imagine where that figure came from. If you know, please let me know in the comments below.
4 – Well, Jim Hartz wasn’t exactly a clinical psychologist. He had a master’s degree in psychology. You need a Ph.D. in clinical psychology to call yourself a clinical psychologist. Did the reporter get this wrong? This is possible. Or did someone speaking to the reporter embellish just a little? This seems entirely possible as well. We will never know for sure. 1/29/2016: Update: A former client has stated that when Jim Hartz was first hired, he only had his bachelor’s degree. He then worked on earning his master’s degree during the first few years of his being director at Straight, Inc. – In the 1978 investigative report of Straight, Inc. a former parent and intake mother stated to the investigators that she heard Mel Sembler, the president of Straight, Inc., tell her husband that Jim Hartz was hired for his degree and that Helen Petermann would operate the program. (By 1978 Jim Hartz was reported to have his master’s degree in psychology as per the investigation.)
6 – According to Hartz, Straight Inc. will provide a therapeutic environment where teenagers can resolve, in group sessions and individually, drug problems and other social trauma that may have led to experiences with drugs.I believe something like this may have been helpful to adolescents and young adults who were enrolled in this program. It seems that Hartz was thinking right when he first joined Straight, Inc., but then as with many, his education and training got lost when he decided to embrace this unproven method of ‘helping kids.’
8 – The program’s staff will be six young adults who have experienced drugs and been helped by other treatment program. Like Hartz, they will be salaried employees.
Right from the beginning people were told that the staff members would be experienced drug abusers who had been helped by other programs. The general public bought the tagline “kids helping kids,” and “peer pressure got them on to drugs, peer pressure is going to get them off of drugs.” This is what happened, but in a “Lord of The Flies” kind of way, not under the supervision of highly qualified professional staff members as the parents were told.
10 – Families not able to pay that much will be allowed to pay what they can, he noted.
I’ve heard and read mixed reviews on this policy. Evidently, sometimes it was in effect, and sometimes it wasn’t. But I don’t know what criteria determined when it was and wasn’t offered.