Closing the door

Here’s what Greg Smith knows about going into detox for alcohol and cocaine addictions: if an addict is down and out and ready to enter a program, he has a better chance of recovery if he can go immediately rather than waiting 24 hours, when the urge to get clean is supplanted by the urge to get high.
Smith’s experience is firsthand. He went to the Mohr Center on East Market Street for detoxification in 1994 and 1995.
“It was a focal point in my recovery,” he says. “The door was always open at the Mohr Center.”
But the 24-hour-a-day, walk-in detox facility will not be an option for indigent addicts here after July 1. Substance abuse funding has been slashed as a result of the state’s $1 billion deficit, and local addicts will have to trek to Staunton to get clean.
    The 11-year-old Mohr Center offered detox services for 234 people last year. “That’s one of the main benefits of having a local detox center,” says the Center’s Michael Costanzo. “The success of the program dramatically increases with the availability of the service.”
That won’t be the case with the new option, New Hope Detox in Staunton, which requires a referral from Region Ten before it will accept a client. 
Then there’s the problem of exactly how Charlottesville’s addicts would get to Staunton. “Most of our clients don’t have vehicles,” says Costanzo, “and if they do, they probably shouldn’t be driving.”
Charlottesville’s recovering addicts are upset by the news and make dire predictions about the impact closing the detox program will have on the community. “It’ll be tragic in so many, many ways,” says Smith, who believes that when addicts can ‘t get treatment, the crime rate will go up.
    “It will put a strain on the other nonprofits in town,” says Will Gallik, director of the Drop-In Center, a resource for the homeless that refers one or two clients a month to the Mohr Center. “It’s probable we’ll have an increase in people who don’t have a place to go.”
The picture was even gloomier for the Mohr Center a few weeks ago when Costanzo thought he was going to have to drop its sobering-up service, too. Last year, 159 inebriated souls who would have gone directly to jail went instead to the Mohr Center.
The public inebriate program was saved when the state dropped licensing standards that required two staff members to be available to help the sobriety-impaired.
    Smith, for one, is not letting the Mohr Center shut down its detox facility without a fight. A graduate of drug court– another program facing the ax until the governor’s intervention on Monday– Smith is button-holing judges and prosecutors whom he met when he went through the criminal court system as well as talking to churches and community leaders. Smith graduated from drug court a year ago, holds a job, and says, “They listen to me.”

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