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County gets $137,500 grant

July 07, 1998|By SHEILA HOTCHKIN

Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend said Monday that Washington County's Jail Substance Abuse Program will receive a $137,500 state grant as part of Maryland's Break the Cycle Initiative.

Although the seven jurisdictions chosen to launch the new initiative will share state funding for the program, Washington County was the only one to also receive grant funds.

"The (reason) is that Washington County has recognized that it's got a challenge," Townsend's policy director Adam Gelb said.

"And the agencies in the community have pulled together and they've put a sensible plan and an aggressive strategy into place."

The money primarily will be used for personnel to staff the drug treatment programs at the Washington County Detention Center and the Women's Halfway House.

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The county started a jail-based treatment program similar to the more recent Break the Cycle initiative in 1989. According to program director Charles R. Messmer, the program was unique in the state at that time and has been imitated elsewhere.

"It has set the stage for what can be done in the state," said Townsend.

That initiative was what caught the attention of state officials when they chose the counties that will participate in the new program.

The county program already in place, combined with the urging of state Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, helped Washington County secure one of the seven slots, Townsend said.

The state initiative is an alternative to the traditional debate between law enforcement officials and the health community over whether drug addicts should be imprisoned or treated, Gelb said.

"This strategy basically says that's a phony debate," he said, "that you get the best results by combining treatment and punishment."

The tough love model, known as "coerced abstinence," provides incentives for known addicts on parole or probation to stay away from drugs - and includes sanctions for those who test positive for drug use.

Those who are referred to the state program are tested at least twice a week. For someone who tests positive, punishment can range from additional community service to jail time to being returned to the court for violation of probation.

Each state jurisdiction will create its own guidelines for the incentives and sanctions, but Gelb said the technique is similar to parenting and punishment must be "swift and certain" for any transgressions.

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