Drug rehab: Repeat offenders in meth’s vise-grip | TheUnion.com

Drug rehab: Repeat offenders in meth’s vise-grip

Five years ago, Matthew Bandy helped get his friend Bob Rogers into Nevada County’s adult drug court.

Rogers had been a drug abuser for years, eventually settling on methamphetamine as what he calls his “drug of choice.”

By the time 2003 rolled around, Rogers realized he’d hit bottom. And that’s when he started on the road to recovery that has shaped the rest of his life.

Rogers is hoping his friend, who was arrested Wednesday afternoon with seven others on suspicion of drug charges by the Nevada County Narcotics Task Force, can eventually do the same.

The arrest of Rogers’ old friend raises anew troubling questions about drug rehabilitation, especially when dealing with methamphetamine ” a drug shown to physically alter the brain.

Rogers, 51, works with drug addicts to help them get and stay clean. He did, he said, after he realized a simple truth.

“It was when the pain of remaining the same is greater than the unwillingness to change,” Rogers said. “It’s a daily program. I have to commit myself when I get up every morning to staying clean.”

Bandy, 45, hasn’t reached that point.

Bandy has been arrested more than 30 times by the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office since 1991, records show. He remains at the Wayne Brown Correctional Facility on his latest charges. This time, they include a parole violation.

Bandy is one of scores of people who have attended Nevada County’s adult drug court. Addicts charged with non-violent drug offenses can enter a counseling and rehabilitation program, with the sentences in their cases suspended. If they complete the program, the sentences are eliminated.

Bandy graduated from the program in 2002.

The program, according to District Attorney Cliff Newell, has a long-term success rate of better than 80 percent. However, those who enter the program must first commit themselves to a rigorous screening process and, perhaps most importantly, be prepared for a lifestyle change, he said.

“That’s the bottom line,” Newell said. “People have to be willing to do it on their own.

If they’re not really ready to do it, there’s no amount of money or treatment that’s going to help them.”

Bandy admitted the difficulty of changing his wiring in an interview with The Union in late 2005, after being sent back to the Wayne Brown Correctional Facility for a weapons violation.

He said his hectic work schedule and pain from a subsequent injury made it difficult to stay with a program of attending 12-step meetings, after completing drug court.

But he also hoped then for another chance at rehabilitation, and knew what awaited him if he didn’t get that.

His previous prison stints have included time in San Quentin, Folsom, Solano and Susanville penitentiaries.

“There’s no recovery in prison,” Bandy told The Union then. “It’s easier to get meth in prison than on the street.”

Bandy was arrested Wednesday while on parole from state prison. Now, he could be headed back.

Newell, who is familiar with Bandy’s cases, said those who go through drug court must commit themselves to changing the “wiring” of their past behaviors.

“And the majority of people that do that prove that it works,” Newell said.

The Nevada County Drug Court is assisted in its operation by the probation department; Community Recovery Resources, a nonprofit rehabilitation center; and other county agencies.

Despite its high success rate, Newell said not everyone succeeds. He cited a variety of reasons, especially a lack of commitment.

“Matt is a larger-than-life example of the court’s recidivism rate,” he said.

Some in the community are impatient with the recidivism of repeat drug offenders.

“Enough is enough. These people don’t want to change,” wrote Norcaldave in a Web comment about Bandy’s latest arrest.

In previous interviews with The Union, Bandy said both his parents were alcoholics. As a pre-teen, the family had run-ins with child protection agencies, he said. He dropped out of school after the 10th grade.

Though she doesn’t know Bandy personally, Lindsay Dunckel of the First 5 Coalition of Nevada County said that growing up in an unstable family environment at such an early age can have long-lasting consequences.

Dunckel’s group helps provide parenting classes for recovering drug addicts with children, drug assessments and related services.

The organization has much of its work centered at the Hope House in Grass Valley, an addiction recovery home for mothers and their children.

“We help them get a healthy relationship modeled for them, with their children,” she said. The key, she said, is building strong relationships with children.

“When that’s lacking, there’s a void that’s lacking from their whole lives,” Dunckel said.

Rogers, who completed drug court in 2005, said his own courage to change made all the difference in his staying clean, and he isn’t afraid to consider himself a success story. He hopes his friend can one day find the courage to do the same.

“Matt’s the kind of guy, when he’s not in that lifestyle, he pays the bills and does his job, just like the rest of us,” Rogers said. “He has made his bed, and he has to suffer the consequences that come along with it.”

To contact Staff Writer David Mirhadi, e-mail dmirhadi@theunion.com or call 477-4239.

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