Getting into, and sticking with, substance use treatment
Federal officials consider Winchester part of the Washington and Baltimore "High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area." WMRA's Randi B. Hagi has the second of a two-part report speaking with those trying to loosen the hold illicit substances have on the region.
In yesterday's report, we heard from drug court administrators in Winchester about how they combine the criminal justice system with substance abuse treatment for people with nonviolent charges who have struggled to stop using drugs. Part of that is helping participants recover from relapses – as long as the person is honest about what happened.
But there are rules, and sanctions for breaking them.
Twenty-nine year old Jasmine Dorsey told me she started drug court last June. She broke curfew early on, and had to serve five and a half months of a four-year suspended sentence. She said the house arrest imposed in these early phases has been challenging.
[sound of traffic]
JASMINE DORSEY: You have to text when you're leaving somewhere, when you get there, when you're leaving there and going back home. You have to send a text message every time, and that's hard. The accountability, the responsibility is serious in this program.
But she said the classes, especially one called Moral Recognition Therapy, have been helpful in dealing with her anger.
DORSEY: If you really want to better yourself, and you really want to stay sober, then I will push for this program. But that's something you really have to be serious about. … Luckily for me, I have a great family, so everybody's close and that's really how I spend my days outside of drug court. … I have a pretty good job. I do in-home care, and it fits my schedule perfectly, and still leaves me some time in my day before my curfew and stuff. So I'm blessed.
Dorsey said that anyone trying to get clean by going to a 30-day inpatient program needs to have other services lined up afterwards. I also heard that from Ray Goode, the community outreach manager with the BrightView treatment center.
RAY GOODE: They come back to their home, and their same places, family, and it's really difficult to navigate that addiction without having services available to them. … So I'm trying to work with the places in Arlington, Northern Virginia, Virginia Beach, things like that, to be able to say … "make sure patients have resources available to them as they leave an inpatient program." It's so critical to their recovery.
BrightView is a private provider offering individual and group therapy, case management, and medically assisted treatment. Goode told me they take all types of insurance, and help uninsured patients sign up for Medicaid or apply for financial assistance.
For a quantitative look at this issue, specifically opioids, let's refer to a recent report that the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force presented to the drug court staff. The task force currently operates in Winchester, Front Royal, and the counties of Clarke, Frederick, Page, and Shenandoah.
One angle is the amount of drugs collected by law enforcement. The report states that, in 2021, the task force seized a little over 1,000 grams of fentanyl. Last year, it was more than double that – most commonly, in the form of blue fentanyl pills that are made to look like 30 milligram tablets of oxycodone.
Their data counted 250 overdoses in the region in 2021. Twenty-six of those were fatal. In 2022, there were just 165 overdoses reported, but 31 were fatal. However, those numbers could be misleading about the frequency of non-fatal overdoses.
Winchester Police Corporal Nathan Morris has responded to a lot of overdose calls in his 12 years with the department.
NATHAN MORRIS: I don't feel like it's as frequently anymore, with the availability of Narcan. Now, when I first started, [it] ranged anywhere from two to three a week, and then some nights I feel like you could get two to three a night.
Narcan is a nasally-administered medication that can reverse an opioid overdose. Some of those who are revived by Narcan may not call 911 or go to the hospital, so they won't end up in official counts.
Earlier this year, Morris assumed the newly-created position of Addiction Resource Officer. Next month, he'll be shadowing the addiction response team in Hamilton County, Ohio, which includes Cincinnati, to see how their program operates.
MORRIS: I'm going to be working closely with Valley Health, BrightView. It's kind of something for me to create. … And I've talked with CCAP and Rescue Mission. … I definitely want to work at getting people into treatment.
If you are considering getting treatment for substance use, drug court participant Shane Bowlen has a word of encouragement.
SHANE BOWLEN: I think the biggest message I could give – I mean, I've been an addict for 30 years. Before I came to this program, I was an active addict of two and a half years, every day. Crystal meth was my drug, and you know, for those people that are out there that are stuck and feel like there's nobody there, there are people there that really do care. The help is out there if you want it. And there's a better life, there really is.