Former BBH client: Center 'saved my life,' but program needs to be rethought

November 08, 2010

As a former patient of Baltimore Behavioral Health I completely agree with your articles ("Hooked on treatment," Nov. 7 and "Sheltered addicts, strained recovery," Nov. 8).

I first went to BBH in January 2008. I was an out of control heroin addict who at that point had burned all my bridges. I was homeless and unemployed. I knew I needed help but not having insurance, my options for getting clean where severely limited.

So I went to the ER of Baltimore Washington Medical in Glen Burnie (I'm from Anne Arundel County) and told them I was suicidal because I knew I wouldn't be turned away, plus at the rate my life was going I would've rather been dead than to keep on going down the path I had led myself on. From there I was sent to Sheppard Pratt, which sent me to BBH.

Just arriving there was intimidating because it was literally right down the street from where I used to buy heroin. When I arrived, they told me I suffered from depression and was given Lexapro. I knew I was depressed, but I felt that it was due to the drugs and the lifestyle I had lived. I stayed for about 10 days then left with another patient who was getting their tax return back. So I went out and relapsed. I was gone for six days and when I came back I had to go through the whole process of being admitted again since they discharge you after you've been gone for two days.

It was then I met Dr. Nicolas Scotto. We talked about my drug history and what caused me to leave the program the week before. We then got to the subject of mental illness, and he asked me what my mental illness was. I had told him that I didn't believe I was mentally ill, I was just seriously depressed due to the damage I had done to my life from heroin. He then informed me that BBH was for "dual diagnosis" and not for just drug treatment. He didn't tell me to change my answers, but I was given the impression that I would be tossed back on out on the streets if I didn't. It was in the dead of winter and I had nowhere else to go, so I changed my answers and told him what I thought he wanted to hear just so he would admit me.

I was deemed "slightly bi-polar" and was but on a medication called Abilify. I left BBH at the end of March to live where I still currently reside. I had few more relapses, but I got clean from heroin on Dec. 6, 2008.

Now, I don't want to seem like I'm knocking BBH because they fed me and gave me a warm bed to sleep in at a time when I had nobody, but I always had a problem with the "dual diagnosis." I knew that heroin was the cause of my depression and my problems. In the almost two years that I've been clean, I've not been seriously depressed at all. When I woke up this morning and read your article, I couldn't do anything but agree with it. I don't want to see BBH get shut down because they saved my life during the winter of 2008, but I do think some of the program should be re-assesed.

Kevin Templeton

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