Jail offers treatment options for substance abusers

Everett Savage becomes emotional while talking about the difficulties of his struggle with addiction Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015. Savage is participating in the drug treatment program at the Carroll County Detention Center in Westminster.
Everett Savage becomes emotional while talking about the difficulties of his struggle with addiction Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015. Savage is participating in the drug treatment program at the Carroll County Detention Center in Westminster. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO / Carroll County Times)

It was an unseasonably muggy day with a slight drizzle when Greg Hendricks visited the Carroll County Detention Center on Dec. 23, but once you pass through the metal detector and the sally port, the climate is always the same; the air tepid and still. Down a narrow, dimly lit hall was his destination, a rectangular room in institutional green, where 16 men waited to greet Hendricks, to pull up a chair and sit in a semi-circle and to share and to hope and to plan.

Hendricks is peer recovery support worker with the health department, a former addict himself, who now serves as a sounding board, an example and line to the outside world to the inmates in the detentions center's drug treatment unit. One of the biggest challenges he faces at the jail is convincing individuals there that they aren't bad people — which they have become accustomed to hearing — they just made bad choices.


"Instead of saying, 'You messed up,' say, 'Look, you made a bad choice,'" he said. They share the stories of those choices, and their attempts to being to take responsibility for them, with each other.

"For me, my addiction started out with pills, prescriptions you would get from the doctor and stuff," Rodney Sydnor, of Baltimore City, offered the group. "It just escalated into street drugs when the prescription cut off. And I didn't know about addiction, you know. I thought I was living a life where I was functioning. I was going to work, I had a house; I lost everything."

For Jeseph Walker Sr., of Westminster, cocaine and alcohol were his primary vices, through he said opioid pain pills would sometimes find their way into his hands.

"For me, I'm an undercover addict," Walker said. "I didn't let a lot of people know that I used drugs and I was ashamed of it."

Everett Savage, originally of West Baltimore, became emotional when talking about the support he has received in the drug treatment unit at the detention center, and the fact that someone like Hendricks was willing to give of his time to help.

"We don't get that much, we're just used to dealing with life as it comes," Savage said. "I just want to be saved man, and given the proper opportunity — and given the proper opportunity …" Savage was unable to finish speaking, his voice breaking. Another man brought Savage a tissue, a pat on the shoulder and a knowing nod of support.

"This is the part of this that people don't see, that these guys are humans and they have feelings," Hendricks said. "They stick a label on them because of what they did, but what they do isn't who they are. These guys are men, they're human, and they deserve a chance just like everybody else deserves a chance."

For those who end up serving "local time" — a sentence of 18 months or less at the Carroll County Detention Center — resources are in place to start drug treatment in jail and continue after a sentence is served.

"Virtually everyone in our custody has some kind of need," Warden George Hardinger said.

When men and women are processed through the detention center's central booking facility, they are screened during intake then seen by medical staff, according to Lt. Veronica Green, treatment correctional liaison at the detention center.

Symptoms of withdrawal from drugs or alcohol are usually obvious, according to Green, though inmates don't often disclose an addiction right away.

"They're not always forthcoming," she said.

If a judge has ordered a substance abuse evaluation and recommended treatment for an inmate, the Carroll County Health Department will meet with them and assess whether they qualify for the jail program, according to Susan Doyle, director of the Bureau of Prevention, Wellness and Recovery.

The program is classified as intensive outpatient program (IOP) though the male participants are housed in the 16-bed unit within the jail, Doyle said.


Inmates can also make a request to be evaluated for substance abuse treatment, according to Green.

"They'll say, 'I want to get into treatment. I want help,'" she said.

Green will meet with anyone requesting services and tell them to be evaluated by the health department for the treatment program run by the department at the jail.

While men have a dedicated unit for treatment, women in the program are housed in the general population, which is not a therapeutic environment because they aren't surrounded by other people in recovery, Green said.

That disparity is not intentional, according to Doyle, but a structural necessity given the available space and constraints in housing male and female populations safely in the detention center. Female inmates do receive treatment, but individually, without the benefit of the group counseling sessions male inmate can utilize she said.

Although there are no concrete plans to eliminate the gender disparity in access to treatment at the detention center, Sheriff Jim DeWees said it is a problem that is on his radar and that he hopes to find a solution.

"I've grown increasingly concerned about the female population we have incarcerated at our local jail," he said. "The services for them are limited and the space they are housed in is inadequate."

The 90-day, 16-bed program for men consists of individual counseling and group meetings and always has a waiting list, according to Green.

Because Hendricks is a recovering addict himself and also spent time in the court system, he said the inmates will often be forthcoming with him in discussing their issues.

"By our example, that we have been through the same things, it cuts out a lot of the lies," he said.

It also creates an instant rapport with the men in the treatment program, such as Todd Tasker, of Westminster.

"What's so great about Greg is, when it comes down to it, he is an addict," Tasker said. "He doesn't just talk the talk, he's a man of his word."

It's not a commitment that ends at the door to the detention center either. Hendricks said he continues to meet with people after their release. There is no end date to a relationship with a peer worker.

"He's obtainable when you're out. If you need him, he will come to you," Tasker said. "I have known him awhile and he has come and picked up up when I needed a ride to a meeting or something like that. He's a good guy to know."

Green said Hendricks is a good resource because he is able to relate to inmates.

"I think it's encouraging for the inmates to see someone who has been in recovery," she said.

Yusef Bey, of Baltimore, is another member of the drug treatment unit. He said he has been in jail in Baltimore before, but he was never offered treatment, and he had certainly never met someone like Hendricks.

"When you get into a unit like this and you meet the other people and you hear their story, it makes you never want to go backwards," Bey said. "You get a person that shows you that you can get out of that lifestyle. I think Greg is a great asset to this system and if they could duplicate him, make more of him, that would be a good thing."

That's exactly the idea, according to Hendricks. When it comes to finding more peer recovery support workers, he said, "They're sitting right there. I'm looking at them."


In addition to substance abuse treatment, the jail offers everything from parenting classes to yoga.

Green said situational depression is common among inmates who are worried or anxious about being incarcerated so she tries to speak to them to determine what assistance the jail can provide.

"I cannot relate to them," she said. "I can sympathize with them."

Anger management, a fathers program, GED classes and alcoholic anonymous meetings are among the options for inmates.

"We're not doing this because they deserve it," Green said. "We want to keep people engaged. We want to change people."

And they want to change, at least they do when they are incarcerated and sober. Walker said he has signed up to receive a Vivitrol injection prior to his release, a non-narcotic medication offered through the health department that blocks the effects of opioids. He sees it as an insurance policy he can sign while sober in case he backslides when released.

"I think the Vivitrol shot would be perfect," he said. "It would help keep you sober if start struggling, all your cravings."

Walker would also like to enroll in the Carroll County Drug Court program. He's afraid that without long term supervision, he will find himself in trouble again.

"I need structure," Walker said. "Without structure, I am just a broken brick ready to be broken. That structure is something I need in my life."

A plea for structure, a deep concern that a long term treatment program would not be available upon their release, and that's something treatment professionals recognize, according to Doyle. As an inmate's release date approaches, each person is connected with a re-entry counselor to craft a transition plan, according to Doyle.

The planning begins more 90 days before discharge, and sets out the needs of the individual upon release and how they're going to have those needs met, according to Green. At the 90-day mark, the plan can be handed off to the health department to set up appointments.

"Instead of just leaving them with a list, we take that first step for them," Doyle said, calling it a "warm hand off."

If someone will need appointments for mental health or substance abuse treatment, they will go to their first appointment from the jail so they are familiar with the people and places before release.

"A lot of times they get out in the community and they don't follow up," Hardinger said.

The Triangle Recovery Club, opened by Tim Weber, is located down the street from the detention center so that a self-help meeting is in walking distance for a newly discharged inmate, according to Doyle.

"We're really looking at the broader picture," Doyle said.

Beyond following up on commitments to get treatment, it's important for people coming out of the detention center to have something to go to, a plan, a job and a network of people to help support them, according to Hendricks. While they are still in the treatment program, Hendricks acts as their hands and feet and their phone calls, connecting with people and making arrangements on the outside so that they can focus on working on themselves while on the inside.

It's by doing this that Hendricks continues to work on himself as well.

"I am blessed to be coming over here," he said. "I didn't really think that this job would mean that much to me coming over here, but it does, because I am working with somebody's life. These guys are working, are about saving their lives, and I can't save it for them but I damn well can help them."