Need help? Call the Dorchester County Health Department

County officials: Users seeking treatment won’t face time in jail

CAMBRIDGE — In past installments of our series on the opioid problem in Dorchester County, we’ve spelled out the nature of the threat and voiced the concerns and efforts of law enforcement and the community. But, what should you do if you know you need to seek treatment, or have a friend or relative in need?

We asked Donald Hall, program director of the Dorchester County Addictions Program, what’s the best way for users and people concerned about them to find help? How should they get started?

“Call the health department,” at 410-228-3223, Mr. Hall said Jan. 19. “Ask for substance abuse services so we can advise them, get them in for an assessment, talk to family members about what services can be provided for them. Between Dorchester Addictions and Dri-Dock, we’re willing to help. We can get a person to whatever treatment they need. Even if they’re not in treatment, we’ll do things to support people and support family members.”

The Dri-Dock Recovery and Wellness Center, at 208 Sunburst Highway (Route 50), in Cambridge, is a place where anyone seeking help with addiction issues, even friends and family of users, can walk through the door and immediately get assistance. The Dri-Dock is staffed with peer support specialists who themselves are in recovery from addiction. It is a warm and friendly place, and since the staff at Dri-Dock is made up of folks in recovery, they can offer a sympathetic ear and support system for anyone with questions or a problem. The Dri-Dock can be reached at 410-228-3230 and is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Dorchester Banner/File photo by Paul Clipper In October, the Dri-Dock Recovery and Wellness Center in Cambridge held a Recovery Works celebration. The celebration was meant to support those who have succeeded in their recovery program and to help reduce the stigma associated with addiction. Pictured from left are state Sen. Addie Eckardt; Charlie Roe; Mozella Green; Purnel Flamer; Patty Ennals; Valarie Albee; Kaylin McJilton; Donald Hall, director of the Dorchester County Addictions Program; and Kathy Roe.

We asked Mr. Hall if users visit the Dri-Dock or call the health department, will they risk going to jail or prison? The answer was a resounding, “No.”

“We’re going to refer them to treatment,” Mr. Hall said. “I would say there is no chance they’re going to get locked up. Treatment is what we’re here for.”

Even the attitudes of law enforcement have changed in the past few years. Mr. Hall said he most definitely believes law enforcement in the county is more interested in helping people than locking them up.

“I was pleasantly surprised that the state’s attorney’s office and law enforcement are really on board,” Mr. Hall said. He became addictions program director in April. “I get the feeling that they want to help people. They’re open to having recovering addicts work in the community to try to address the problem.”

Working with law enforcement, Mr. Hall said, “it’s not like pulling teeth. They want to help. They don’t want to throw people jail.”

Dorchester County leaders joined an October roundtable discussion about the many issues involved with opioid use. During that discussion, Sheriff James Phillips Jr. said he believes treatment is one of the most important keys to resolving the local problem that is a reflection of a national and global epidemic.

“The peers are the most important part of this I feel, because a lot of these people reach out for help,” Sheriff Phillips said. “They’ll come to you and they’ll say, ‘Look, I need help. I’ve gotta have somebody.’ I can’t talk to them because I haven’t been where they’ve been. These guys understand where they’re at. They can reach out to them, and the lives that they’re saving are probably as important or more understated than what anything else is, the effect they’re having on the community.”

Law enforcement representatives including the sheriff, members of the City of Cambridge Police, and Dorchester County State’s Attorney William Jones all offered a clear message to the Banner. Drug dealers, and users who break other laws in pursuit of their addiction, should beware. Users who just need help, need treatment, not jail time.

In any encounter with any service provider, the first step will be to create an assessment of the subject’s addiction. The assessment is produced by interviews and examinations, and will determine the basic level of treatment necessary for an individual to return to a clean and healthy lifestyle.

After the assessment, there are two steps that will need to be taken by anyone wanting to clean up. The first is detox, which is the catch-all phrase used to describe what needs to happen to remove the physical dependence on the drug. After detox, participation in a recovery program is urged, to emotionally and intellectually support an addict in recovery. Call it a support group, or just a new group of friends, but recovery support is critical to the success of anyone looking for a clean and sober life.

When a patient is brought into a detox program, it may be prescribed as an inpatient or an outpatient program, depending on the determination of the initial assessment. It may include treatment with various medications, such as Suboxone, methadone, Vivitrol or others; and may need to be enforced with an inpatient hospital stay to monitor the physical withdrawal as detoxification progresses.
For anyone, of any economic circumstance, it’s important to know one thing: treatment is out there, but in order to take advantage of it, someone seeking treatment will need to learn about the options and the various paths to get there.

The first point, and one that should be hardly surprising in these modern times, is that there is an economic divide to negotiate right at the beginning of the journey. Anyone who has the money, or has an excellent health insurance plan, can pursue a plethora of different treatments. People seeking treatment should check with their insurance companies, see what services are covered and make a choice.
People with no insurance, or low-end insurance with limited coverage, shouldn’t lose hope. There are services available to everyone.

No one is doomed to be an addict without treatment. There are caring, concerned people out there who are willing to help.
In all our investigations, in all our questioning, one answer we heard universally is to contact the Dorchester County Health Department to find help. The health department is at 3 Cedar St. in Cambridge, behind the McDonalds.

Bruce Strazza, a person who works with addicts every day, said, “Dorchester County has a top-notch crew working for and advocating for those seeking inpatient treatment.”

Health department staff will help those without insurance set up Medicaid, which will open the door to a treatment plan and recovery program. Everyone we talked to agreed: the health department is there to help, not to stigmatize or incarcerate. We encourage anyone wanting to learn more about addiction treatment to start with a phone call. Those in need of a new group of friends or peer support should get involved with the Dri-Dock.

Editor’s note: This is the fifth part of a series of six stories about opioids, heroin and related issues in Dorchester County. The series will appear in Friday editions of the Dorchester Banner through Feb. 3. The final story in the series will focus on new initiatives, changes, and views on what more is needed to address the opioid problem in Dorchester County.

Paul Clipper is the editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at pclipper@newszap.com.

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