Rethinking their approach to the problem of drug abuse in Howard County, health officials have hired a staff member to oversee drug treatment, intervention and prevention programs.
Tom Cargiulo, a pharmacist and alcohol and drug counselor who served on the Howard County Alcohol and Drug Abuse Advisory Board, has been named the county's director of substance abuse services.
Cargiulo, who worked in drug treatment at the University of Maryland School of Medicine before being named to the Howard post, will take over the responsibilities held by Jesse K. Smith, who led the substance abuse strategies unit and reported to the county administrative officer.
Smith, a former Howard County principal who was hired as a temporary anti-drug coordinator in 2001, left in February, county spokeswoman Victoria Goodman said.
Cargiulo will work within the Health Department, said County Executive James N. Robey. "To me, the issue of substance abuse is a health issue," Robey said.
The change was made after an internal review of the recommendations of the Drug Abuse: Evaluation of Legal and Treatment Alternatives (DELTA) project, a $320,000 study of Howard's drug problem that was released in 2001 by the Horizon Foundation, a nonprofit group formed to address community health issues.
The study found that nearly 2,000 county residents sought drug treatment in 1999. Its recommendations included hiring a coordinator to lead the county's efforts, establishing a county drug court and transitional housing for recovering addicts.
Having the leader of the county's drug initiatives work out of the Health Department was a suggestion that arose during the review, Horizon President Richard M. Krieg said.
"The person could be housed in the Health Department and still have quite a lot of impact in the criminal justice system," he said.
Cargiulo, who started the job last month, will oversee "a continuum of substance abuse care for the county," and collection and evaluation of data, said Dr. Penny Borenstein, the county health officer.
"My goal is to have our treatment to be the best in the county, if not in the state," Cargiulo said.
Cargiulo also will be the county representative to the alcohol and drug abuse advisory board, of which he has been chairman or vice chairman since 1997. He was a member of the DELTA project.
The position puts "all of the leadership of these varying efforts in the hands of one body ... and also in the hands of one person who serves that leadership role," Borenstein said. "I think he has shown his passion for the issue, his ability to get things done, his wide-ranging knowledge base on substance abuse."
Cargiulo, 36, of Valley Meade in Ellicott City will be paid $68,000 a year, Borenstein said.
Raised in New Jersey, he earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Rhode Island, where he had an internship in a residential drug treatment facility.
Cargiulo then was a psychiatric nursing counselor for patients suffering from addiction and mental illness at Taylor Manor Hospital in Ellicott City before earning a doctorate in pharmacy from the University of Maryland, Baltimore in 1997.
He then joined the University of Maryland School of Medicine's drug treatment center, working with HIV-infected heroin patients. The pharmacist has published research on interaction between medication for heroin addiction and the human immunodeficiency virus as well as alcohol abuse in the elderly, he said.
Cargiulo said his responsibilities will include coordinating the efforts of groups such as the Police Department, private treatment centers and religious and nonprofit organizations "that are doing little pockets of intervention, prevention and treatment."
One of his first jobs is to find a service provider for a drug treatment halfway house. The facility will be the first residential treatment center in Howard since the 1990s, said Marilyn R. Manson, director of the Health Department's Bureau of Addictions.
A combination of state, county and foundation money will be used to get the halfway house started, Borenstein said. The Health Department has submitted a multiyear lease for a building on the grounds of the former Taylor Manor Hospital, now Sheppard Pratt at Ellicott City, to the County Council for approval.
Howard received $123,000 from the state's Substance Abuse Treatment Outcomes Partnership (STOP) fund in fiscal 2003 to plan the halfway house, Borenstein said.
Horizon also provided a $30,000 grant to evaluate transitional housing models throughout the country and determine what Howard should provide, Krieg said. "We think it's a critical piece of the community's response to drug abuse to stop the revolving door" of treatment and relapse, he said.
The Health Department is seeking $325,000 in STOP funds in fiscal 2004. The county committed $70,000 for the halfway house in its 2004 budget.
The Horizon Foundation will offer more than $150,000 in matching funds for the program's first two years.
"Horizon is helping us get the effort rolling," Borenstein said.