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Drug-sniffing dogs: You're hired

April 14, 2014
by Shannon Brys, Associate Editor
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Working in a treatment center and helping individuals to get their lives back on track comes with a long list of challenges. Among them is monitoring residents and guests to make sure no drugs are brought into the facility.

Individuals in early recovery can become desperate to get their hands on drugs and even plead with outside family members and friends to smuggle them in when they come to visit. A September USA Today article cited a handful of instances where drugs were brought into treatment centers and put those in treatment in danger.

In one of these cited examples, a drug dealer would deliver drugs via a tennis ball. He would bounce it to the third floor window, money would come back to him inside the bouncing ball, and then the ball would return with drugs inside to the person in treatment. 

Memorial Hermann Prevention & Recovery Center (PaRC) has thought of a way to make sure that its clients stay drug-free while in the program – drug-sniffing dogs. The two dogs, named Vegas and Ronson, are specially trained, narcotics dogs that thoroughly check luggage, patient rooms, and the entire property.

Matt Feehery, CEO of PaRC, said in a press release, “The presence of these dogs brings a sense of safety and relief.”

The two German Shephard-Malinois mixes are always escorted by a handler, who received unique training to work in the medical, rehabilitation environment. Although drug-sniffing dogs are most commonly associated with criminal justice, these dogs will not serve in that capacity.

As the dogs alternate day and night patrols, they will search for drugs. In the case that they find something, they will alert PaRC staff so they can address the situation. The organization says the focus is not on punishment, but instead on getting the patient well.

The drug-sniffing dogs would most likely be beneficial to all treatment centers, but Feehery believes the dogs are even more crucial in a place that works with young adults.

“Young adults make up 35 percent of our inpatient population, but they are our toughest clients,” said Feehery. “If just one person brings in drugs, it can jeopardize the sobriety and recovery of all patients. In our experience, we believe the dogs serve as a positive deterrent.”

Since this topic is something every treatment center has to deal with, I’d love to hear more from you about what types of precautions and protocols you have in place. How do you do your best to make sure drugs aren’t entering the facility? What happens if/when you find them? 

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Shannon Brys