Heroin treatment program urged at Carroll County jail

Officials note rise in use among those ages 18-25

March 07, 2001|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

County health officials, a deputy state's attorney and drug counselors urged the Carroll commissioners yesterday to develop what officials believe would be the first heroin treatment program for inmates at a Maryland detention center.

"We would like to expand services at the Carroll County Detention Center to include an eight-bed unit for heroin users 18 to 25 years old," Howard M. Held, director of addiction services for the county Health Department, told the commissioners. "This unit would provide treatment 20 hours per week for up to six months, and would include programs not only during the day, but also at night."

The detention center offers inmates substance abuse treatment nine hours a week for up to three months, but it has no program designed specifically for heroin addicts.

The number of inmates ages 18 to 25 who reported using heroin more than tripled in one year, from nine in fiscal 1999 to 33 in fiscal 2000, which ended June 30, according to county health records.

"We seem to believe that these young people are often committing their first set of crimes, are often in denial about their drug problem and are often in need of a longer treatment program than we currently have," Held said. "The purpose of this program would be to extend treatment and the intensity of treatment."

The detention center is among 10 in the state that receive funding from the Maryland Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration to provide substance abuse treatment, said Ray Miller, chief of treatment services for the state agency.

"To my knowledge, the detention centers that do substance abuse treatment do not have heroin-specific programs," Miller said. "The Baltimore City jail, through a methadone program, will medicate inmates while they're incarcerated and help get them into [treatment] when they're released, but that's the extent of it."

Held's comments were echoed by Deputy State's Attorney Tracy A. Gilmore and public defender Judson K. Larrimore, who said long-term treatment is the key to success in battling heroin addiction.

"Thirty percent of my files indicated active heroin users who are 18 to 25 years old," said Larrimore. "Right now, there isn't anything for us to do for them. No one is satisfied with our resources. Would I like to ask for 12 beds? Sure I would, but I think eight beds is going to make a difference because every one of those kids will be jerked out of their peer group and given treatment."

The program would be run by Carroll County Health Department and cost about $170,000 in the 2002 budget year, which begins July 1, Held said. Most of that money would be used to hire two full-time therapists, a social worker, an addictions counselor, a secretary and an administrator. Health officials hope the state will pay 50 percent of the program costs.

After listening to the proposal, Commissioner Donald I. Dell questioned whether the county should consider creating an institution with as many as 300 beds for heroin addicts, rather than trying to piece together treatment with a program at the jail and other outside services.

"We're really just spinning our wheels if we don't think about the big picture and get our arms around it," Dell said.

The commissioners said they will further discuss the proposal during their review of the Health Department's budget requests.

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