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Drug court provides treatment, counseling in lieu of jail

Drug court provides treatment, counseling in lieu of jail
Greg Hendricks, a peer recovery support counselor from the Carroll County Health Department, speaks with participants in the drug treatment program at the Carroll County Detention Center in Westminster, including Louis Vicarini of Westminster, right, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO / Carroll County Times)

It took Greg Hendricks 28 months to complete Carroll County's Drug Treatment Court, a program that requires a minimum of 13 months if the participant doesn't stumble along the way.

Hendricks found his way to drug court not long after it began in mid-2007. He graduated in 2010. He also spent time at the Shoemaker Center, a residential treatment facility in Sykesville.

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"I needed all those things to get here," Hendricks said.

Hendricks now serves as a peer recovery support counselor with the Carroll County Health Department and is assigned to the Carroll County Detention Center and drug court.

"A lot of people come in, and they really want to get sober but they just don't know how," he said.

Many start attending drug court merely to stay out of jail and that's fine, Hendricks said. They don't recognize that they are making progress just by showing up.

"They don't think they're doing the right things," he said.

Part of Hendricks' job is to point out the positive strides people in drug court have made, even if they can't see the progress themselves.

Since its inception, 125 people have successfully completed the intense program and those who haven't completed drug court have still left with resources and tools for future recovery.

There are no guarantees, according to Judge Michael M. Galloway, and the success of drug court should not be measured by whether participants remain abstinent.

"There are people who stumble, slip, even after they go through drug court," he said.

Galloway has been the judge assigned to the program since it began.

Before becoming a judge 16 years ago, Galloway had spent time as both a prosecutor and private defense attorney. In his career, he had only dealt with one person charged with possession of heroin.

"Once I took the bench, it just seemed like it exploded," he said.

Defendants came before him with heroin addictions and family members and friends who wept and begged the system to get their loved one help. It became clear that an epidemic was well and truly underway.

When Warden George Hardinger first approached Galloway about starting a drug court because of an increase in inmates with substance abuse problems, Galloway agreed.

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"I basically concluded that I had an obligation to do what I could to see if we could have any success stemming the tide of drug addiction in Carroll County," Galloway said.

There are three levels of supervision in drug court, according to program literature, and supervision is stepped down as participants complete each level.

After a 30-day orientation period, participants are expected to maintain 60 days of clean time during level one while keeping appointments, attending meetings, maintaining a home group and sponsor, and other requirements.

Level two lasts 120 days and level three lasts 180 days, according to the literature. Not all attendees complete drug court in the minimum amount of time.

"This is, in our view, a last-ditch effort and to be quite honest, I'm surprised how many people really embrace it," Galloway said.

Preferred drug court candidates will have a history of addiction, failed attempts at rehabilitation facilities and a substantial amount of jail time "hanging over their heads" to motivate them to follow the rules.

"A good candidate is someone who is tired of their lifestyle, tired of being alienated from their family," public defender Lee McNulty said. "They think they've reached rock bottom."

District Court Chief Attorney Adam Wells, who spent seven years as one of the prosecutors assigned to drug court, said when he started working with the program he thought like a prosecutor.

"Very much it was a 'you commit the crime, you do the time' and that was it," he said.

Eventually, however, Wells said he recognized the wisdom of the program because incarcerated people will eventually be released, and if they do not receive treatment and get connected to resources, they are likely to reoffend.

Even victims of crimes would tell him they don't want the defendant in prison; they want the person to have treatment, Wells said.

McNulty said it's hard to be a part of drug court with a prosecutor's mindset, and when prosecutors are out-and-out law enforcement, drug courts don't work.

"Prosecutors tend to see the world in black and white," he said. "Defense attorneys tend to see it in gray."

The joint purpose of the public defenders and prosecutors is to get participants through drug court, McNulty said, and at least one person always thanked Wells at each graduation.

Peers like Hendricks are also a valuable resource for drug court participants.

"They know for sure when a participant is lying or manipulating," he said.

Connecting with an individual counselor is huge, according to Galloway, and eventually many drug court participants will have a moment when a lightbulb goes on and they see the big picture.

"Sometimes there are these moments … they'll just break down and start talking about something that happened in their lives, perhaps a long time ago, that they're still holding onto," he said.

McNulty said it's rewarding to see the moment someone who started out resistant to change.

"It's beautiful, because you can almost see the switch being thrown," he said.

Galloway said the goal of drug court is to help people one life at a time.

"We continue on, and hopefully we make a dent in it," Galloway said. "It's still a huge problem."

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