Tuesday, February 4th, 2014
New local program designed to help break cycle of drug abuse
By Kathy Thompson
Editor's note: Names of those participating in the experimental program have been changed.
Nearly two-thirds of the incoming inmates at the Mercer County Detention Facility test positive for drugs.
Frederick, 32, was one of them. He started doing drugs eight years ago; five years ago heroin took over his life. He was in jail last year when his youngest child was born.
"They let me go to the hospital and see this beautiful birth," Frederick said, "but then I had to come right back here. That was a killer."
He is now one of five men taking an experimental class at the detention facility in Celina.
Sheriff Jeff Grey and David Cahill, managing partner with Avanulo Consulting Inc. of Celina, began the program in October. The goal is to teach current and former inmates how to deal with life's issues by rethinking their addictions, philosophies and goals.
Frederick was released from jail Dec. 7. He is not on probation but willingly undergoes drug testing to be eligible for the program. He credits it for his sobriety.
"Before I started this, when I was out on the streets, I was deep in the rabbit hole," he said. "All I was doing was living to get high, not really living. As far as I was concerned, I was beyond hope."
Grey hand-selected participants for the program. He said they are adamant when they say they want to change their lives and Grey believes they can.
"They are intelligent people that need to be pointed in the right direction," he said. "I have no idea if this is going to work, but I don't see a reason not to try and keep these guys clean."
The average cost for addiction treatment in a community is $1,600 annually per person (without medication-assisted treatment), and the average cost of mental health treatment, including two medications, is $7,500 a year, according to the Ohio Mental Health Addiction Services.
The weekly class at the detention center is free to the sheriff's department and taxpayers, Grey said.
The class is based on the business plan Cahill uses to help struggling companies become successful.
"My job is to fix broken companies and he (Grey) asked if maybe I could help fix a broken community," said Cahill, who is volunteering his time for the project.
He began visiting the jail one night a week to speak to participants about how to use their intelligence, instincts, life motivations and desires to stay away from drugs and lead productive lives. Although Cahill is not a substance abuse counselor, he feels the lessons he teaches will assist each person down a better road.
"It works for giant corporations," Cahill said. "Why can't it work for them?"
The philosophy focuses on continuing improvement; those in the program are encouraged to target the issues in their lives that are causing them to abuse drugs, Cahill said.
Participants are required to stay clean after they are released from jail, find employment and honestly share the issues and problems that occur on a day-to-day basis, Grey said. Those who are still incarcerated stay in an honor dorm at the jail away from the influences of other inmates, work jobs within the jail and are a support system for each other.
"We believe in eliminating the issues or problems that aren't productive," Cahill said. "You have to work on someone's desires, goals, progress and develop a strategic way to enjoy your life result. We work on control here. The experts in addiction tell you that if an addict can stay clean for two years, then there's a great chance they will remain that way."
Frederick said he is keeping himself busy by playing music, reading and working.
"I need to have something to do that matters," he said. "Reading makes my mind bigger. Right now, I've got two beautiful kids and it hurts to the bone to think I may not be around to watch them grow."
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine in November announced the formation of a heroin unit to assist communities fighting the increasing use of the drug. Investigators, lawyers and drug abuse awareness specialists are now available for use at the local level.
"This is a huge problem," DeWine told law enforcement representatives Monday during a visit to the detention facility. "All law enforcement can do is stick them in jail or prison. I think it's time for communities across the state to say they are sick and tired of it. We need everyone's help to combat this issue."
At least 11 Ohioans per week died from a heroin overdose in 2013, according to DeWine. In 2012, 606 deaths were attributed to the drug.
Mercer County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Ingraham has said 90 percent of the cases coming before him are related to drugs; heroin tops the list.
Ingraham said he anticipates seeing more than 200 indictments in his courtroom in 2013. Previous totals range from 80 in 2008 to 186 in 2011. Between 2001 and 2012, indictments totaled between 120 and 150.
All five men in the local program said they never were offered a drug they didn't take. Most of them started smoking marijuana when they were young and they progressed to opiates and then heroin, they said. Some have taken methamphetamine and cocaine, they added.
"Whatever you can find," said Junior, 33, an inmate at the jail who is in the program. "It really didn't matter what the drug was, as long as you have something. That's how bad it gets."
Junior started doing opiates 15 years ago and advanced to heroin. He is married with two children.
As more and more stringent regulations are put on the disbursement of opiates and painkillers from doctors and emergency rooms, the men said heroin has become the drug of choice.
"It's cheap," Junior said. "You can find it anywhere, anytime. When you're doing drugs, the only thing you care about is drugs. I didn't care if I ate or not. Drugs came first. Your life revolves around that drug. "
The men said heroin costs $80 for 80 milligrams.
"I had a $200 to $300 a day habit," Junior said. "To keep it up, you have to do other things, either sell the drugs, which makes you a lot of money, or do other crimes."
All of the participants say withdrawal is the most difficult part of getting clean.
"It's like having the flu only multiply that by a thousand," said Brad, 24, another inmate. "You're really not after the drug to get high. You're after it to just keep going. Just getting right. The only time you can do anything is when you have the drugs. When you don't, that's when you can't get up and take a shower or go to work. That's the worst."
All of the participants appreciate the opportunity afforded to them through the program.
"What we're scared of is going back out," Junior said. "We're safe in here. Out there, we have no job, we may have to deal with old friends and we all know where to get drugs. We could take the easy way and go back to that life. But none of us want to. What really matters to us is not to disappoint sheriff Grey. He's been so supportive of what we'd like to do. We want to spend time with our families, get jobs. I know I need structure in my life. We all know we need to trust people more. The right people."
The program continues to evolve. No end dates exists but participants are encouraged to continue looking ahead. Each must develop a goal and a code he wants to live by, Cahill said.
After hearing about the program on Monday, DeWine said he believes it's "great."
"Anything that motivates, any initiative," DeWine said. "Heroin is a tough addiction. The one person who sees it the most each day is the sheriff. He's the one with the tough, tough job of detoxing these people. I commend Sheriff Grey for this."
Grey said he has no idea if any of the men will continue to stay clean or resort back to their previous lives.
"I tell them flat out, there are no mistakes," Grey said. "No back sliding. This course right now costs them nothing but time and effort. I tell them the taxpayers owe them nothing. They got themselves here and what they do on the outside is up to them. But, we're here right now and we really don't want to see them back."
Junior spoke for the group when he agreed with Grey and added that they were all "sick and tired of the former lifestyle."
"What we need is to learn a new way of life," Junior said. "I think we're all making progress where we didn't really have any hope before. I don't know if I was born an addict or not, but I know I don't want to die one."