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Track chaplaincy handles more cases

February 25, 2002|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A three-year-old chaplaincy program at Charles Town Races that has helped employees there deal with alcohol, gambling and substance abuse is handling a growing number of cases, an official with the program said last week.

Although he could not provide any figures to reflect the increase, chaplain Rick Mann said 50 people were helped with such problems last year.

In the first two months of this year, 35 people have been given assistance, Mann said.

When Mann started the racetrack chaplaincy in 1999, he helped about 22 track employees with addictions to alcohol and gambling.

"They are increasing all the time. I think it's just we're finding more," Mann told the Jefferson County Commission last week.

Mann outlined the group's activities to the commissioners last Thursday. The commissioners gave the racetrack chaplaincy $5,000 last year, and this year the group is requesting $10,000 to help fund its programs.

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It's budget time for the commissioners and organizations are renewing their ritual of coming before the commissioners for funding requests.

Mann said he does not necessarily believe the growing number of people getting help means there is an increased problem with alcohol, drug and gambling abuse at the thoroughbred track. He instead attributes the numbers to an increased effort to identify people who have the problems.

"The people were there before," Mann said.

Mann said trainers and stewards at the track, as well as management, have been making a special effort to identify workers with addiction problems.

Working in the stable area at the track presents challenges to people who work there, employees and chaplaincy officials have said.

Workers go to work sometimes as early as 5 a.m. and leave by noon.

If workers are not careful how they spend idle time the rest of the day, they can end up battling drinking and drug-abuse problems, track officials have said.

Mann told the commissioners that about 30 percent of his time is spent helping people with substance abuse. Mann said he is trying to get a full-time secretary to help him take care of the work.

Mann said some track patrons have called for help, but mostly it's employees who get assistance.

Working through local churches, Mann said he hopes to find psychologists in local congregations that might be interested in volunteering their time at the track to help workers with addiction problems.

Commission president James K. Ruland said it's good to know someone like Mann's group is tracking addiction problems at the track.

The chaplaincy works with the West Virginia Council on Problem Gambling, which offers a toll-free number to people seeking help. The number is 1-800-GAMBLER.

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