Dereke Bungy found that being locked up ultimately granted him years of freedom from drug abuse.
The 57-year-old Brunswick man was arrested in 2010 for possession of drug paraphernalia and was sentenced to 18 months in jail.
At the Frederick County Adult Detention Center, he applied for the drug treatment program Project 103 because he heard it might reduce his sentence.
He was accepted and learned tools through his six months in the program that he said helped him kick a 20-year substance abuse problem.
“You had to stay focused on what they were telling you,” Bungy said, explaining that in the program he would get up early, around 5:30 or 6 a.m., eat breakfast, and then meet with instructors all day starting by 8 or 9 a.m., who taught him strategies for living without drugs.
When he was released, he had a better outlook on life. He says he now “keeps his head up and stays focused.”
Several years sober, Bungy leads the Frederick chapter of the Christian Motorcyclists Association.
“I’ve done a lot now. I’ve got a lot of people who are proud of me, and I’ve got a lot of people that I can’t let down,” he said.
Treatment on the inside
While Bungy’s drugs of choice were crack cocaine and alcohol, Project 103 has been a key tool for the justice system to address the opioid epidemic gripping the county and nation.
Program head David Brooks estimated that 70 to 80 percent of the people in treatment at the jail are dependent on opioids.
When someone is booked at the Frederick County Adult Detention Center, Inmate Services Director Lori Frazee said, they may report a history of drug abuse during the intake process.
They will be put on detoxification protocol if they have recently been using, she continued. Between Jan. 1 to March 8, around 75 detainees were detoxed. Of those, 58 finished the treatment.
In addition to going to Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous meetings, inmates can request to go to Project 103 through the health department.
The project dates back to the 1970s, Brooks said. It grew from a meeting in an apartment complex to becoming part of the Frederick County Health Department, funded by federal and state grants.
There are 45 beds available in the program at a time, 24 for males and 10 for females. An additional seven or eight people can participate from work release.
There were around 60 or 70 people waiting around five to six months to get into program last year, according to Brooks. However, Project 103 hired a third staff member, which brought the waiting list down to around 30.
The curriculum lasts 16 weeks. The first two weeks focus on substance abuse but also address social issues like the shame, codependency, criminality and family issues that may be linked to drug abuse.
“Too many people focus on the substance and they forget about the criminal activity behind it,” Brooks said. “We work on changing the belief system instead of [only] tackling why ... you use drugs.”
Before inmates leave the detention center, they can request a shot of the opiate-blocker Vivitrol, Assistant Director of Inmate Services Randy Martin said. The $1,500 shot acts for 30 days to negate the effects of heroin and other opioids.
The drug maker will provide a first shot at no cost, according to Martin. The Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention in 2015 provided $50,000 to buy medication for inmates who want to take a second shot.
Since the detention center began administering Vivitrol in 2015, it has given out 30 initial shots and a dozen second shots. Martin said it was unclear if he would be able to continue giving out second doses when the batch brought with the grant runs out.
Treatment from the outside
Frederick County’s drug court program aims to help people charged with low-level offenses stop using drugs and stay out of jail.
Drug court is akin to probation and it allows participants who successfully graduate avoid jail time.
Program coordinator Paul Wolford said there are around 45 people in the program, about all of them opioid users.
“When the opiate crisis started … a couple of years ago … our numbers spiked. We probably had 68, 69 participants at the high,” he said.
Those in the program must be nonviolent offenders in need of treatment and have pleaded guilty to Frederick County charges, Wolford said.
Drug court doesn’t take first-time offenders, he noted, because, without experience being on probation, the participants would likely be overwhelmed by the level of supervision.
They must undergo random, frequent drug testing and report to the program frequently. It takes a minimum of 15 months, but 18 to 22 months is typical to complete it.
The drug court is funded through state and county grants. Last year, it received $246,000 from the state, the most it has been awarded. The county provided around $44,000.
Wolford said the drug court ultimately saves money because it may cost $2,000 to $6,000 per year to keep someone in the program, while it could take $27,000 to $30,000 per year to incarcerate them.
He said drug court has led to many success stories, including a graduate who got into legal trouble due to a heroin addiction and now works at the courthouse.
“He really turned his life completely around from a revolving door of incarcerations to running marathons” and working with probation agents, Wolford said.