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Health department services offered at convenient location

April 15, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

HANCOCK - "Robert" says the substance abuse treatment group sessions held at the Hancock Community Center on Mondays have helped him through a rough period in his life.

"I'm court ordered to attend but since I also lost my driver's license, I would have had a hard time getting to Hagerstown for treatment," said the 47-year-old Warfordsburg, Pa. resident. His name is not being for confidentiality reasons.

The alternative for Robert and many others who live far west of Hagerstown has been the Washington County Health Department's extensive menu of services offered on the second floor of Hancock's community center at 126 W. High St.

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"We used to be on Main Street but have been at the community center for a number of years now," said Amy Landis, a certified alcohol and drug counselor with the health department. "I've been involved at Hancock for three years."

Substance abuse/addictions treatment programs, intake interviews and regular group meetings are available at the center every Monday evening from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., Landis said. For more information on those programs call 240-313-3310.

At first unsure of how he would feel about group sessions, Robert said he thought that knowing some of the other people would be difficult for him. "But it's easier actually," he said of the group of six or seven with whom he meets each week.

Robert described the group process as well set up and said he was glad he didn't have to go all the way to Hagerstown. "I'd walk if I had to but I'm glad I don't have to," he said.

The group room is small and spare. There are chairs around the perimeter and a framed mission statement hanging on the wall.

Another group member, "Jim," is 32 and lives in Hancock. "It is very convenient for those of us who live up this way," he said.

Jim, whose name is not being used for confidentiality reasons, said this has been his second time going through a mandatory alcohol program. "I was 19 the first time and I didn't pay any attention," he said. "This time, I really learned something."

Landis said the group process works for most clients but added that if necessary, she will work one-on-one with a client.

"I also handle addictions intake at the main office in Hagerstown," said Landis, who has been working in the field of addictions with the health department for 15 years.

A Cumberland, Md., resident and Frostburg State University graduate, Landis used to be a counselor at the health department's former detox unit in Sabillasville, Md.

Landis said Robert's problem with transportation is shared by many of the people in the Hancock area. Most convictions for driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence of alcohol result in the loss of driving privileges so getting to Hagerstown-based treatment can be difficult.

For most people, once a week is enough, Landis said. First-time offenders often only need some education on addictions.

"Others may need more," Landis said. Those people she can refer to the main office in Hagerstown or to intensive outpatient services.

"If a person is court ordered to attend a treatment program, it doesn't matter if they are Maryland residents or not," Landis said. For all other services provided at the Hancock center, Maryland residency is required.

Office hours at the center are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., said Barbara Deneen who has staffed the outreach office since 1996. "I do home visits so if I'm not here, people can leave messages on the answering machine," she said.

Deneen, of Hancock, said it is helpful that she is from the area and knows the people. "A lot of people come because they know me and feel comfortable with me," she said.

On Wednesday from 8 a.m. to noon, the outreach staff is available with information and to make referrals. The number to call for those services is 301-678-5402.

On the first Thursdays of the month from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., the center is open for women, infants and children (WIC) nutrition programs. Appointments are required.

On the second Thursdays of each month from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., immunizations, blood pressure screenings, pregnancy testing, family planning and birth control services, testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases are scheduled.

Dental services are available on the third Thursdays of the month from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Landis said she likes all the facets of her job but is particularly happy to be in Hancock once a week.

"It's a nice little town and everybody knows everybody," Landis said. "We're here to respond to the needs of the community of Hancock."

Robert appreciates that concern. "It's a great program that speaks to any addiction ... the causes, the family history," he said. "It's helping me."

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