'People Are Going To Be Hurt'

Treatment Centers Brace For Drastic Cuts

October 20, 1991|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff writer

Jane knew she was in bad shape when she needed a stiff drink to steady her nerves for her DWI hearing.

Even after the judge smelled alcohol on her breath and sent her to a strict detox program, she couldn't stay sober. She went back to work as a bartender in Annapolis andkept on partying -- drinking after her shift, using cocaine to pick herself up, sometimes indulging in a wild binge.

Last fall, she was so depressed that she kept thinking about killing herself. On one of her worst nights, drunk and suicidal, she begged her boyfriend to get help. He drove her to North Arundel Hospital and checked her into the detox center.

"I had been struggling withtrying to get sober for seven years," recalled Jane, 35, who asked to withhold her last name because her employer is unaware of her past."When I got out of detox, I went and banged on doors because I wanted to get into treatment right away."

She knocked and pleaded repeatedly because every one of Anne Arundel's non-profit residential programs had long waiting lists. But Jane was determined. She went to Hope House in Crownsville and waited in the office until a client didn'tarrive.

When she finished the 28-day program, Jane turned to Chrysalis House, a halfway house for addicted women in Pasadena, for long-term treatment. She learned word-processing skills and gained self-esteem, found a job and celebrated her first year of being sober. Nextweekend, she's moving to Baltimore, where she works as a secretary. She's still giddy about her fresh start.

But Jane and the other 11women struggling to overcome years of drug and alcohol abuse at Chrysalis House are worried about the future. They fear the program couldbecome another victim of the state's budget crisis.

"Even if it stays open and a couple of other places close, there's going to be a problem," Jane said. "A year ago there was a waiting list. It's just out of pure desperation that I got in."

Hundreds of addicts are waiting to get into the county's publicly supported drug treatment programs, directors and counselors said. But at least three of the six long-term care programs have stopped taking applications because they expect severe budget cuts.

Hope House and Raft House in Crownsville and Samaritan House in Annapolis are holding off until they find out how much of their aid has been slashed. Drug treatment programs are expected to lose about 17 percent of their financing, under the deficit-reduction package signed Friday by Gov. William Donald Schaefer. Though better than the 50 percent expected originally, the cuts still could be devastating.

The state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene could trim all programs or eliminate some considered less effective. The agency is still working out the details, a spokeswoman said.

Area halfway houses are bracing for the worst. Most directors fear state officials will decide 28-day treatment programs are more cost-effective than long-term care.

"We're retrenching," said Joe Reilly, director of Samaritan House, where residents stay for six months."We're looking at our options, and they're not looking good right now."

Since it relies on the state for 57 percent of its budget, the20-year-old program is likely to close unless it continues to receive nearly its full share, Reilly said.

Samaritan House might survive by raising client fees, cutting salaries and scrimping on supplies.But Reilly said the house could be in jeopardy if the state decides to funnel the money to 28-day treatment programs.

Most of the men and women who seek help at halfway houses have tried shorter treatment several times. They usually have arrest records. They've lived on the streets for years, dealing drugs, working as prostitutes, trying to stay sober.

"These people are trying to get well," Reilly said. "We're keeping them out of jails, off the street. We get them off thewelfare rolls and back on the tax rolls again. We're saving money --and lives."

Tai Kostro, a recovering heroin addict who kicked a $400-a-day habit, said she's trying to be optimistic about the future of treatment for the many people who don't have insurance and can't afford private programs. But she admits she's worried about her futureif Raft House closes.

The non-profit program, which leases a dilapidated section of the Crownsville Hospital Center from the state for$1 a year, offers treatment to hardened, street-smart addicts for upto two years. Most of the 43 men and women in the program are like Kostro, with a long history of IV drug use, alcoholism and battered self-esteem.

"I was sick -- physically, spiritually and emotionally," said Kostro, who went through treatment at programs from Second Genesis, just up the hill in Crownsville, to the Betty Ford Center (where she met Mary Tyler Moore). "But I kept going back. I was on the street. I sold drugs. I prostituted."

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