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On a ju­di­cial level, the cir­cuit courts for Calvert and St. Mary’s have es­tab­lished drug court pro­grams that aim to break the cy­cle of ad­dic­tion through in­ten­sive mon­i­tor­ing and in­di­vid­u­al­ized treat­ment, cou­pled with the in­cen­tive of sus­pended pri­son time con­di­tional to their suc­cess­ful grad­u­a­tion.

In Calvert, the cir­cuit court adult drug court was formed in Fe­bru­ary 2015, Ad­min­is­tra­tive Judge Mar­jorie Clagett said, and has quickly grown due to a col­lec­tive com­mu­nity ef­fort. As of press time, 84 par­tici- pants were en­rolled in the pro­gram that de­mands a min­i­mum of 18 months to com­plete.

Each par­tic­i­pant must ap­ply to the pro­gram, Clagett ex­plained, and is then vet­ted by the drug court team of pub­lic de­fend­ers, pros­e­cu­tors, case man­agers, jail staff, pa­role and pro­ba­tion of­fi­cers, sub­stance abuse and men­tal health coun­selors, and is over­seen by Judge Mark Chan­dlee.

“What drug court real- ly is, adult drug court, is su­per pro­ba­tion by the court,” Clagett said. “And if your courts don’t buy in, it won’t suc­ceed. So that’s why its im­por­tant to have some­body that is fo­cused and de­ter­mined, and Judge Chan­dlee has that docket ev­ery Thurs­day morn­ing. He gets to know the peo­ple, he gets to know their fam­i­lies, he knows when they’re ly- ing.”

“We can’t keep in­car­cer- at­ing,” Clagett added. “… Un­less you change their lives, they’re go­ing to be back again.”

Par­tic­i­pants be­gin the pro­gram in a “sta­bi­liz- ing” phase in which they spend at least six months in a treat­ment pro­gram out­side of the county be­fore re­turn­ing to the com­mu­nity to con­tinue out­pa­tient ser­vices and the rein­te­gra­tion process.

“What we have started to do in many dif­fer­ent cases ... we’ve put them in a pro­gram, like Sal­va­tion Army, to sta­bi­lize them for six months be­fore work­ing them back into the com­mu­nity,” said for- mer pro­gram co­or­di­na­tor Molly Owens. “We’ve got peo­ple all over the United States in treat­ment.”

“The whole point of drug court is that if you rec­og­nize the fact that the crimes are be­ing com- mit­ted by peo­ple who are try­ing to get money to­gether to buy drugs, if you deal with the sub­stance abuse is­sue, you’re go­ing to have an im­pact on the com­mu­nity,” she con­tin­ued. “… And if you look at na­tional sta­tis­tics for drug courts, you will see that they are the most cost-ef­fec­tive way of deal- ing with crime and deal- ing with sub­stance abuse, and they’re also the most suc­cess­ful way.”

To help par­tic­i­pants re-en­ter so­ci­ety, Clag- ett says she hand­picked a group of com­mu­nity mem­bers, in­clud­ing busi- ness own­ers who are will­ing to give them a chance.

Sim­i­lar to Calvert, the St. Mary’s Cir­cuit Court has an adult drug court pro­gram, or adult re­cov- ery court, that em­ploys many of the same key prin­ci­ples, as well as a ju­ve­nile drug court.

“We give re­wards, we call them in­cen­tives, and sanc­tions out as quick to the event as pos­si­ble,” said Pete Cu­cinotta, the co­or­di­na­tor for both pro­grams. “So the peo­ple are back in court quickly. And so they un­der­stand that if they test positive yester- day, there’s a sanc­tion com­ing rather quickly,” em­pha­siz­ing the im­por- tance of swift ac­tion in cor­rect­ing be­hav­ior.

The pro­grams, how­ever, dif­fer in sev­eral as­pects, such as size and length. The ju­ve­nile drug court, cre­ated in 2004, cur­rent- ly has 16 par­tic­i­pants, ac­cord­ing to Cu­cinotta. The adult pro­gram, es- tab­lished in 2009, has 31 with a soft cap at 30. The adult pro­gram is at least 12 months long but can be sig­nif­i­cantly longer de­pend­ing on a par­tic­i­pant’s progress, he said.

“We take the high-risk, high-need,” Cu­cinotta said of the adult pro­gram. “We’re tak­ing the of­fend­ers that have longer crim- inal his­to­ries and longer his­to­ries of sub­stance abuse, by and large. It’s a chal­leng­ing pop­u­la­tion, but drug courts are de­signed just for that. That’s why we have the in­ten- sity we have, that’s why we have test­ing so of­ten, that’s why they’re com­ing back to court so of­ten, that’s why we man­age their com­mu­nity be­hav- ior the way we do — be­cause they need it. They need that level of in­terac- tion to have any chance of suc­cess, be­cause that’s the na­ture of ad­dic­tion and the na­ture of crim­i­nal be­hav­ior.”

Cu­cinotta also pointed out the ben­e­fits of drug court, such as cost ef- fi­ciency, lower costs to tax­pay­ers, re­duc­ing the pop­u­la­tion of the lo­cal de­ten­tion cen­ter and lower re­cidi­vism rates.

“We know na­tion­ally those peo­ple that just go to jail, go through the sys­tem, don’t get any kind of in­ter­ven­tion, no drug court, re­cidi­vism rates go any­where be­tween 60, 70, 75 per­cent. It’s pretty high,” he said. “For those peo­ple, na­tion­ally, that go through a drug court and suc­cess­fully com­plete it, the re­cidi­vism rate is about 40 per­cent.”

Charles County does not have an adult drug court, per se, but does op­er­ate a fam­ily re­cov- ery court, which helps par­ents main­tain or re­gain le­gal cus­tody of their chil­dren af­ter they have been taken away by the state for drug or al­co­hol is­sues. The fam­ily re­cov- ery court, es­tab­lished in 2010, has 30 par­tic­i­pants cur­rently en­rolled.

Due to a high case vol­ume and lim­ited num­ber of judges, with one on med­i­cal leave and an­other near re­tire­ment, Ad­min­is­tra­tive Judge Amy Bra­gu­nier said the cir­cuit court lacks the means to cre­ate and over­see an­other spe­cialty court, not­ing the ar­du­ous process that goes into the es­tab­lish­ment of an adult drug court pro­gram.

Judge He­len Har­ring­ton, who over­sees the fam­ily re­cov­ery court, ex­plained the dif­fer­ence be­tween the two pro­grams.

“There is a huge dif­fer­ence be­tween the fam­ily based drug courts and the adult drug courts that are in the crim­i­nal process,” she said. “The most ob­vi­ous one is that we don’t have any crim­i­nal sanc­tions, we’re not in­car­cer­at­ing peo­ple, and it is fam­ily-based. We’re deal­ing with peo­ple who are ad­dicted, but also peo­ple who have dif­fi­cultly par­ent­ing their child be­cause of their ad­dic­tion.”

Like adult drug court, Har­ring­ton said par­tici- pants are put into in­pa­tient or out­pa­tient treat­ment as quickly as pos­si­ble based on their in­di­vid­ual needs, and they are re­quired to make reg­u­lar court ap­pear­ances, as well as con- tin­u­ing care and uri­naly- sis. An­other sim­i­lar­ity is a fo­cus on build­ing voca- tional skills, com­plet­ing GEDs pro­grams, and es- tab­lish­ing sober sup­ports in the com­mu­nity.

“I would re­ally love to get an adult drug court go­ing here in the crim­i­nal sys­tem,” Har­ring­ton said. “We’ve been pretty much hand­i­capped by not hav- ing enough judges, and I cer­tainly have not been any help with that in the last few months,” men- tion­ing her re­cent back surgery and not­ing that newly ap­pointed Judge Wil­liam Greer is cur­rent- ly in train­ing.

Charles County State’s At­tor­ney An­thony Cov­ing­ton (D) be­lieves there is a need for more sub­stance abuse and men­tal health re­sources in gen- eral.

“I’ve been on the record for years now say­ing, we need more re­sources, we need more treat­ment,” Cov­ing­ton told South­ern Mary­land News­pa­pers, adding that if the court de­cided to cre­ate such a pro­gram, he would sup­port it, if it was “prop­erly con­sti­tuted” and or­ga­nized. While he be­lieves the ju­di­cial sys­tem has a role to play, Cov­ing­ton said a drug court is not a cure-all. “We al­ways want to look to the crim­i­nal jus­tice pro­gram to solve th­ese prob­lems, and we have to rec­og­nize that the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem doesn’t see ev­ery­body that’s in­volved in this,” he said. “Sooner or later, and ul­ti­mately, it’s up to the in­di­vid­ual to de­cide that they want to get the help.”

He, too, noted the cir- cuit court is short staffed on judges, and pointed out that of­ten vis­it­ing judges are called in to pre­side over cases. Cov­ing- ton also noted Greer’s re­cent ju­di­cial ap­point­ment, adding a fifth judge to the bench.

“I think that the lead­er­ship in Charles County,” Cov­ing­ton said, “the com­mis­sion­ers, health de­part­ment, sher­iff, and the courts, have prob­a­bly done bet­ter than most … as far as try­ing to ad­dress the is­sue” and get more re­sources.

South­ern Mary­land News­pa­pers also reached out to Charles County Health Of­fi­cer Dr. Dianna Ab­ney for her re­ac­tion to the newly pub­lished data.

“I think in many coun­ties the num­bers are high com­pared to pre­vi­ous years,” she said. “We are in the mid­dle of a drug and al­co­hol cri­sis, and one of the things I think is im­por­tant for us to look at, we’re all con­cerned about opi­ates and about Fen­tanyl ... but I think it’s also very im­por­tant and very telling to look at two things: one, is that many of th­ese deaths are peo­ple who have mul­ti­ple sub­stances in their body at the time of their death. And the other one is, the num­ber of al­co­hol-re­lated deaths has risen sig­nif­i­cantly” from two fa­tal­i­ties through the third-quar­ter in 2015 to 10 in 2016.

“It’s im­por­tant to note that al­co­hol went up sharply,” she con­tin­ued. “It went up 5 times, 500 per­cent. And as im­por­tant as the opi­oid prob­lem is, and the prob­lems with

other drugs, we can’t lose sight of the fact that al­co­hol is still with us, and that we need to make sure that we are do­ing treat­ment for al­co­hol use dis­or­der, and do­ing pre­ven­tion and ed­u­ca­tion for al­co­hol use dis­or­der.”

The re­port from DHMH in­di­cates that in fa­tal cases where mul­ti­ple sub­stances were found each sub­stance present is listed. Given this, the 10 “al- co­hol-re­lated deaths” could have been in con­junc­tion with heroin or Fen­tanyl, for exam- ple, and there’s no way to de­ci­pher from the data whether or not there were any other con­tribut­ing fac­tors. Ve­hic­u­lar ac­ci­dents are not in­cluded.

“There’s a cou­ple of things you need to re­mem­ber about Charles County’s fa­tal­i­ties, and that is, those deaths are re­port- ed as place of oc­cur­rence, that does not nec­es­sar­ily mean that they are all Charles County res­i­dents and that they do not share in this re­port or pub­lic- ly,” Ab­ney said. “... Many peo­ple in the many re­gions are ex- tremely mo­bile. You know that here in the South­ern re­gional, peo­ple work, live, have friends, visit peo­ple in all three of the coun­ties. So, yes the num­ber was 34 in Charles County. Does that mean that they were all Charles County res­i­dents? We don’t know the an­swer to that.”

Chief John Filer of the Charles County of De­part­ment of Emer­gency Ser­vices con­firmed what the DHMH data shows: his staff is re­spond­ing to more drug over­doses than ever be­fore.

“We’re see­ing more car­diac ar­rests, and we’re also see­ing peo­ple who we are un­able to save be­cause of drug over- dose,” Filer said. “… We’re see­ing peo­ple in their 20s, in their teens, in car­diac ar­rest be­cause of the drug epi­demic.”

The de­part­ment of emer- gency ser­vices re­sponded to about 61 per­cent more sus­pected over­doses through the third-quar­ter in 2016, with 192 re­sponses, com­pared to 117 re­sponses dur­ing that time in 2015.

Filer said he first no­ticed the trend about two years ago.

“The car­diac ar­rest rate in Charles County, our save rate was 50 per­cent,” he said. “We were re­ally proud of that for a re­ally long time. So if you went into car­diac ar­rest, you had a 50-50 chance of mak­ing it, and the na­tional av­er­age is some­where around 19 per­cent. In Charles County, we were re­ally proud that you had a 50-50 shot and that spoke vol­umes to what we were do­ing. So, the heroin epi­demic hap­pened and now our num­bers have plum­meted, and now we’re back down to 20 per­cent.”

“It’s just the sheer vol­ume and the ages of peo­ple over­dos­ing,” he added, “it be­fud­dles you.”

And while po­lice of­fi­cers are now equipped with two doses of Nar­can, drug users are turn­ing to more po­tent, and dan­ger­ous, op­tions that can mit­i­gate the life-sav­ing drug’s ef­fec­tive­ness.

“The strain of heroin that’s out there now is dif­fer­ent than the heroin of old. It’s ac­tu­ally stronger, it’s cut with Fen­tanyl and some­thing called Car­fen­tanil, which is ac­tu­ally an ele­phant tran­quil­izer. So it takes more Nar­can to re­vive some­body and save them then it used to.” Filer said. “Be­fore, two doses of Nar­can and most peo­ple would come out of it. Now, it’s tak­ing four, some­times six. It’s hard to com­bat an ele­phant tran­quil­izer, you know?”

Bernie Fowler Jr., founder of the Farm­ing 4 Hunger non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion, in­spects the let­tuce grow­ing in­side a green­house at Seren­ity Farm in Bene­dict. As part of the Calvert Court Cir­cuit Court adult drug court pro­gram, each par­tic­i­pant is re­quired to work at least 24 hours on the farm along­side soon-to-be re­leased pris­on­ers and com­mu­nity mem­bers alike.


Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Mary Lynn Logs­don out­side the Jude House in Bel Al­ton.

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