Treatment center for DWI cases will expand

Drug-alcohol program to open 2 dorms for women

September 23, 1999|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

Buoyed by an increasing number of drunken-driving arrests, Baltimore County's DWI/Correctional Treatment Facility in Owings Mills -- which celebrates its fifth anniversary this week -- plans to nearly double its size in the next two years.

Right Turn of Maryland, which runs the 100-bed facility at Rosewood Center, won state approval to lease two Rosewood buildings and plans to turn them into 40-bed dormitories for women.

John Goings, the treatment center director, said Right Turn hopes to open the first 40-bed residence within six months and the second one about a year after that.

Right Turn, which runs the facility under a contract with Baltimore County, received approval about a year ago to lease the buildings for $1 a year, Goings said.

He said cost estimates for the renovations, which will be financed by Right Turn, have not been determined. "It is going to be very expensive," he said.

The expansion marks another chapter in the intensive drug and alcohol treatment program that struggled for years to attract participants, who pay for their inpatient and outpatient therapy.

Two years ago, a quarter of the beds were empty, and three years ago half often were empty.

"By all accounts, it's a dramatic success story," said Michael M. Gimbel, director of the county Bureau of Substance Abuse.

Gimbel attributes the turnaround to word-of-mouth among substance abuse counselors, a shortage of facilities statewide and the center's reputation.

"I think it's outstanding," said Circuit Judge John Grason Turnbull II, who has toured the facility and frequently refers alcohol- and drug-addicted defendants there.

Another factor is the increase in arrests for drunken driving.

Driving-while-intoxicated cases in the county shot up 10 percent -- from 2,521 to 2,928 -- from fiscal year 1994 to fiscal year 1998, said the Administrative Office of the Courts. Statewide, DWI cases increased 3 percent, from 29,826 to 34,342, the office said.

The program requires an initial 28-day period of inpatient care and 11 months of follow-up care.

Residents are charged from $1,500 to $2,500 for the initial 28-day residential stay depending on their income, Goings said. A $50 per week fee is charged for the 11 months of extended treatment, Goings said. He said no one is turned away for an inability to pay.

The director said the new buildings are needed because of a shortage of space for women.

The 80 male and 20 female residents sleep in double-decker bunks in two large, bunkhouse-style rooms at opposite ends of the main building.

"The women just need their own place," Goings said.

Right Turn, based in Cambridge, operates similar treatment centers in Altoona, Pa., and Charlotte, N.C., and a treatment center for juveniles in Wolford on the Eastern Shore.

About 90 percent of the residents at Rosewood have been convicted or are awaiting trial on alcohol-related charges, Goings said.

Residents sign out when they leave for work, blow into a Breathalyzer when they return, account for time away from the campus and submit to random urinalysis and pat-down searches. Alcohol and drugs are prohibited, and anyone using them might be sent back to jail, Goings said.

"The key is that they hold you accountable for your behavior," said Jacquelyn Samisen, a former resident who works as the facility's support services coordinator.

Samisen said she had been in nine treatment centers, had been in and out of Alcoholics Anonymous and had been arrested a dozen times for alcohol-related offenses when she heard about the facility last year.

"I had hit rock-bottom," said Samisen, 44, of Salisbury.

She arrived in June last year, and credits the facility and its staff with helping her to stay alcohol-free for 16 months. "They care about you here," she said.

Pub Date: 9/23/99

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