Curing Our Coast: Addiction Treatment Quality, Quantity On Shore Major Concerns

SALISBURY — On a quiet street just outside of Salisbury’s vibrant downtown area sits a small and unassuming house that is the only halfway house for recovery addicts on the lower shore.

It’s called Second Wind, and for the better part of four decades, the halfway house has been providing help and treatment for addicts on the shore who are looking to get their proverbial second wind in the fight against their own addiction and demons.

As the coastal region settles in for what will likely be an ongoing battle with addiction, the fact remains that while the outcry for awareness and education is growing, the quantity of treatment options in the rural landscape of the Eastern Shore is seemingly unchanged.

While government run organizations like the Worcester County Health Department say they are meeting the demands of heroin addicts seeking treatment with the multi-tiered supply of treatment options, other organizations like Second Wind in Salisbury, the seven-bed halfway house for men in transition after long bouts of addiction, are struggling.

Second Wind Executive Director Jim Freeman says halfway houses serve as an important step in the treatment of addicts, especially ones battling heroin addiction, because it helps provide the supervision and treatment as they get ready to go back into the real world and exist without using.

“It’s difficult for people to stay clean when they are in treatment, but when they get out, and go back into the same communities and environments where they used to use, it can be even harder,” says Freeman. “At Second Wind, we are like a family. These gentlemen lean on each other and get the help they need at this point in their treatment to have a better chance at a life without drugs or alcohol.”

While Second Wind is the only halfway house on the shore, there are many other organizations that offer different levels of treatment options on the lower shore, such as Hudson Health Services Inc, a non-profit organization that provides treatment options from detox and intensive in-patient therapy to recovery house options and relapse counseling.

Yet, while the quality of care most certainly exists on the shore for those battling addiction, the quantity of the care concerns Jim Freeman and many others who work in this world.

Most of these organizations, Second Wind included, receive significant funding from grants or the government, but in the instance of Second Wind, which has only seven beds and residents pay roughly $125 per week for their space in the house, keeping the lights on and the service Second Wind provides to the community solvent can be challenging.

“If you add up all the treatment beds on the shore, you are talking less than 125,” said Freeman. “The phone here rings non-stop from people looking to get a spot here. There just isn’t enough space.”

Changing Face Of Addiction

Sawyer (whose name has been changed to protect his privacy) is a former construction worker and Crisfield native. He’s also a recovering heroin addict and a resident of Second Wind. His journey to addiction started with partying on the weekends with binge drinking and party drugs like cocaine. However, an injury on the jobsite led him to oxycotin and other pain pills several years ago.

“My wife was also in pain so we started taking the pills together,” he recalls. “Then when I would go to work, the jobsite was kind of like a pill mill. There were pills everywhere at 50 cents a milligram. The irony is that we were working on an expansion to the hospital in Salisbury at the time and many of us were high on pain pills. Then, the price of pills went up to a dollar a milligram and it got too expensive and then someone introduced me to heroin. That was it.”

In the years that have followed, Sawyer has been in and out of rehabs and recovery houses before finally ending up at Second Wind. He says the environment there is different from some of the recovery houses he stayed in on the shore.

“One place I stayed in had practically no supervision,” he said. “So, my roommate in the recovery house was dealing crack and heroin right out of our window. So, when I got here, I knew I was in the right place. Second Wind gives you the infrastructure and the support you need to stay clean when you go back out on your own.

Sawyer now has a retail job and goes to daily Narcotics Anonymous meetings just up the street from Second Wind. He says more and more people at his meetings are there for heroin.

“My goal is to stay clean, keep working and stay here in Salisbury,” he said. “I don’t want to go back to my old town that hosted my old life. There are just too many demons there.”

Matching The Person

With The Program

Lorraine Jenkins is a Certified Addictions Counselor at the WACS Center in West Ocean City. She admits that the demand for treatment, especially for opiate and heroin addiction, is on the rise.

“We have no shortage of counselors,” said Jenkins. “You can walk into our facility and get treatment today.”

Jenkins says there is a difference in an opiate addict and other addicts, but while that might be true for reasons ranging from how much the drug has altered the user’s brain chemistry to how long treatment often takes to truly “stay clean,” she says the approach to treatment in Worcester County is not cookie-cutter.

“It’s a complicated addiction to treat because it’s much more than just physical,” she said. “We treat every person as an individual and we take a serious look at their environmental, their biological and psychological needs and circumstances before we put them into a treatment plan.”

Kutresa Lankford, the county’s Clinical Advisor for Addictions, says there are many factors in matching the person with the right program.

“It’s everything from what their addiction is to their physical and mental condition when they arrive at treatment, to how long they have been addicted to how much of the drug they were taking,” said Lankford. “We try to help people take charge of their own therapy options because if they aren’t committed to staying clean and getting into the programs, their chances of success are much less.”

About The Author: Bryan Russo

Bryan Russo returned to The Dispatch in 2015 to serve as News Editor after working as a staff writer from 2007-2010 covering the Ocean City news beat. In between, Russo worked as the Coastal Reporter for NPR-member station WAMU 88.5FM in Washington DC and WRAU 88.3 FM on the Delmarva Peninsula. He was the host of a weekly multi-award winning public affairs show “Coastal Connection.” During his five years in public radio, Russo’s work won 19 Associated Press Awards and 2 Edward R. Murrow Awards and was heard on various national programs like NPR’s All Things Considered, Morning Edition, APM’s Marketplace and the BBC. Russo also worked for the Associated Press (Philadelphia Bureau) covering the NHL and the NBA and is a critically acclaimed singer/songwriter and composer.