Drug addicts voice concerns over travel bans for out-of-state treatment

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Drug addicts on probation in Chesterfield County claim they’re being denied access to get the help they need out-of-state.

“What I’m hearing a lot of lately, and I’ve never heard before in over 30 years of doing this, is the phrase ‘travel ban,’” said John Shinholser, president of the McShin Foundation which is dedicated to helping drug addicts recover.

aa87495034c447cead3ebd1b91d68b0aShinholser says treatment centers in Virginia are at capacity, and for the first time, prosecutors and judges are denying addicts on probation the ability to get a travel pass to get treatment out-of-state.

“They’ve always let people leave to go to treatment,” Shinholser said.

Recovering addict John Manuel told 8News he lined up a treatment center in Florida to help after the program he was forced to attend in Chesterfield failed to keep him off drugs.

4901ba648fc744d49be287bf360bf02f“I’ve been struggling with addiction for the past 5 or 6 years and I feel like it was a really good opportunity that I was denied,” Manuel said.

“Failed a drug test, went to jail three or four times over and over again, and then they tell me I have to do the same thing when obviously that hasn’t been working for me.”

Manuel’s mother, Nancy Cuddihy, said her biggest fear is her son not getting the treatment he needs.

“He’ll die. Death,” she said. “Death through overdose. It’s a concern every day. It never goes away, never.”

“These drug addicts are human beings, they’re somebody’s son, husband, brother and people who want them to stay alive.” — N. Cuddihy

Shinholser added, “I’ve seen people end up on life support, people in the graveyard, people with more serious crimes.”

But prosecutors say it’s not that simple. Juan Vega, the assistant commonwealth’s attorney in Chesterfield County, says they consider each case individually.

They say while travel passes are granted occasionally, in Manuel’s case he repeatedly failed drug tests and was arrested for buying heroin in September.  Vega says when it came to his travel request, that was the reason it was denied.

“Had the court granted it, the defendant would have been in a different state, beyond the grasp of the court, and free to continue breaking the law and court orders,” Vega explained.

But Shinholser says the courts are making the wrong decision by forcing addicts into sub-par care.

“If these guys are going to screw up, you’re going to catch them,” Shinholser said. “They’re not going nowhere, but you cannot replace loss of life.”

Shinholser says the problem goes beyond Chesterfield. He says a change in environment is extremely beneficial in helping addicts recover.

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