Drugs specialist gives details about mobile treatment unit Heroin detoxification program proposed at Kings Contrivance center

December 03, 1998|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

One of Howard County's top addictions specialists went before the Kings Contrivance Village Board last night to answer questions about a proposed heroin detoxification program that could treat as many as 70 addicts a week from a mobile unit near the village center.

Frank McGloin, program director for the county Bureau of Mental Health and Addictions in Columbia, told Kings Contrivance officials that heroin use is on the rise in Howard County -- particularly among ages 18 to 25. He outlined the details of a program he hopes will help substance abusers get clean of drugs and steer clear of crime.

The mobile treatment program, which has been used for several years in Baltimore, has yet to receive the final go-ahead, but McGloin said the county Health Department hopes to use between $80,000 and $90,000 of its detoxification budget to get it started early next year.

McGloin is scheduled to meet tomorrow with an official from the Institute for Behavioral Resources -- a nonprofit agency that would help administer the program -- to negotiate funding and other details.

Under the proposed program, a van staffed by three or four people, including a physician and security officer, would visit the treatment clinic in the Riverwood Center in Kings Contrivance three times a week -- possibly Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Instead of giving patients methadone, a common treatment for heroin addicts that requires daily doses, medical personnel would administer a medication called LAAM -- or levo-alpha-acetylmethadol -- which can be taken three times a week.

According to Dr. Robert Schwartz, director of the University of Maryland Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse, who attended last night's sparsely attended meeting at Amherst House, treating heroin addicts with LAAM has several benefits.

Because it is longer-lasting, LAAM has less "value" as a street drug than does methadone. It also eliminates an addict's craving for heroin, prevents withdrawal symptoms and blocks the euphoric effect of heroin, so those who relapse won't get the same high they did before they started treatment.

In addition to receiving a physical screening and medication in the van, addicts would attend counseling sessions at the treatment center. Preference would be given to those who live or work in Howard County.

The village board will have no say in whether the program is approved, because there are no zoning issues involved with bringing the van to the clinic parking lot.

Some community officials expressed safety concerns last night, saying that a parked van containing drugs might make an easy target for robberies.

But McGloin and Schwartz, who are familiar with the Baltimore program, said robberies have been rare.

Pub Date: 12/03/98

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