Since 1963, the A.F. Whitsitt Center has operated as a state-funded behavioral health facility in Maryland. Named for the late Dr. A.F. Whitsitt, a pioneering Maryland public health official, the Chestertown-based treatment center serves clients from Caroline, Cecil, Queen Anne’s, Talbot, Dorchester and Kent County. Whitsitt offers affordable inpatient, outpatient and aftercare programs for substance abuse and co-occurring disorders. As the facility has a mental health clinic on-site, all of the substance abuse programs provide dual diagnosis support.
Accommodations and Food
Whitsitt’s inpatient program is housed in a state-owned institutional building that, from the outside, resembles a library. The co-ed facility has 28 beds. Each room has two twin beds, two small closets and two cabinets. The building has many rooms for group and individual counseling as well as a TV room and library that are available for use during downtime.
The facility has a cafeteria where three meals are served each day. The food is prepared at an outside food service company. They serve from a set menu and offer two different meal options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Although the food service does not take requests, it can accommodate dietary needs and provide vegetarian or vegan options.
Treatment and Staff
Treatment begins with an hour-and-a-half intake assessment where the client is assigned a counselor who will work with them throughout treatment. Because the program is state-funded and typically understaffed, there is generally a two-week waiting list for new clients. If the client is unstable during the assessment, they are initially assigned to a detox bed in the inpatient program. The treatment center has eight beds dedicated to detox. Detox generally lasts five days for clients with opiate addiction and a week to 10 days for alcohol and benzodiazepine addiction.
The inpatient program is 21 days and consists of 12-step-focused group counseling and individual therapy. The program has dual diagnosis capabilities, and refers patients with co-existing disorders to the on-site mental heath clinic where they are assessed and treated by a physician.
Monday through Friday clients are in group from 8:00 am to 3:30 pm. After a short break in the afternoon, the clients attend off-site AA and NA groups in the evenings. The weekends are less intensive and allow Saturday afternoons for family visits and Sunday mornings those interested can attend church services. The inpatient program operates on a sliding fee scale, which accommodates clients who don’t have insurance or medical assistance. State funding allows most clients to pay only $5 to $10 a day for the inpatient program.
Upon discharge from the inpatient program, the counselor’s recommendations are made based on the client’s progress and needs. Most are referred to the outpatient program as a step-down and roughly 25 percent go into some form of halfway house or sober living. The outpatient program offers specialty groups, including women’s groups, Spanish-speaking groups and a young peoples’ group for those 18-24. The focus of most of these groups is not just on dealing with recovery issues but also reintegration into society. The outpatient program length and frequency is based on the individual.
Whitsitt also has a Suboxone program. Before treatment can begin, clients must first be diagnosed with an opiate addiction. The program’s length is individually determined and can last anywhere from one year, to two and a half years. While patients are in the Suboxone program, they are required to attend a weekly one hour group meeting and a local AA or NA meeting, as well as a bi-weekly individual counseling session. The clients also have a mandatory urinalysis every two weeks when they come in to have their prescription filled. Over time, clients are prescribed smaller doses of Suboxone to help transition them into complete sobriety. When the doctors determine that the client is ready to move off of Suboxone, the client receives a Vivitrol injection designed to block cravings for 30 days.
The program has four to five licensed counselors on site during the day. The program also has a doctor who does daily rounds, as well as a psychiatrist who comes in twice a week.
For recreation, the facility has a pool table, basketball court, volleyball court and softball diamond that clients can use for exercise during free time.
A.F. Whitsitt offers an aftercare program for graduates that provides group and individual counseling sessions. Generally, the aftercare program lasts six months and includes mandatory weekly group meetings and referrals to 12 step groups in the area.
Although the programs at Whitsett are generally small and understaffed, they offer a solid foundation in recovery and great sense of community. Former clients report that they regularly carpool to the group meetings and return following their own treatment to support current clients. The A. F. Whitsitt Center is a great place for people with limited resources who need help with addiction and dual diagnosis issues.
A.F. Whitsitt Center
125 South Lynchburg Street
Chestertown, MD 21620
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