To a Speedy Recovery 

Prop. 36 has driven thousands of hard-core drug addicts away from prison and into treatment, but backers worry that recent changes to the program could stifle its success.

Page 7 of 7

Then they bring the reluctant new client back from the lobby.

"I did take some painkillers that I neglected to tell you about," he admits right away. "My girlfriend gave them to me because my shoulder is blown out. And I took meth a week ago, so it could come up."

"Not really," Chinn says. "You're just prepping us in case it does." He explains to the man that the drug would have left his system days ago. The group tells him, however, that if he tests, it will distinguish between prescription painkillers and street drugs.

Finally the guy crumbles: It's only been a few days, he admits. "Can I get into a detox bed tonight?"

Taylor looks at him with a kindly expression. "Thank you for your honesty," he says. "Now we'll be able to help you the best way. Go into detox."

"And get some rest," Gabriel says sympathetically. She says a bed will be ready for him if he can get to Richmond by 8 p.m. At his request, she even notifies his girlfriend.

But now that a plan is in motion, the man seems uncomfortable. He says maybe he can't make it in time, even though he has two hours to make a thirty-minute drive. Maybe stuff will be stolen from his truck if he has to park there overnight. Maybe he's too low on gas.

"Are you trying to talk your way out of this?" Chinn asks.

"No, I'm just saying I'll have to stop and get some gas," he insists.

Another telepathic moment. The team has seen this before — people on the cusp, torn between a desire to get clean and the physical craving that could make them another no-show. They try to buck him up a little, praising his honesty and his smart decision-making.

Once he's gone, Chinn murmurs, "I sensed he was bagging out a little."

"Let's be realistic — it's a voluntary program," Pearson says. "Between the time he left and 8 p.m., a number of things could happen. He could call the girlfriend again, and maybe she's using. Maybe he'll say, 'I'll do it tomorrow, but not today.'"

There's nothing to do now but wait. That's the twist to the Prop. 36 experiment: It gives people a choice. And when you do that, anything can happen.

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