Bobby lives in Southeast Washington; he's 17, and spends his days playing basketball, studying for his high school equivalency diploma, thinking about his girlfriend, and picking colleges and jobs.
Reginald lives in Northeast, in one of the halfway houses that Bobby used to stay in. Reginald spends his days climbing on his neighbors' roofs, finding new connections and selling dope to the other kids in his, halfway house.
They live 40 minutes apart, but emotionally there are miles between them. The difference is Second Genesis, an 11-year-old drug rehabilitation program whose combination of discipline and counseling has broken the cycle of drug dependency for a score of Bobbys.
With facilities in Prince Georges, Rockville, Alexandria and the District, Second Genesis offers a comprehensive, residential treatment program for 266 adult and teen-age drug abusers. Of these, 76 are D.C. residents. The success rate for teenagers is high -- an estimated 70 percent of the teen-age residents successfully complete the 18-24 month program. The adult success rate is only 50 percent.
But hard times may be ahead for both Second Genesis and the youths the program tries to help.Although police report that heroin and other drug use is on the upswing, the budget-troubled District has cut next year's contribution to Second Genesis by over $60,000 -- about the cost of 10 beds for city teen-agers for a year. As a result, the program cannot admit any more District teen-agers, unless money is found from private sources.
"I take it very personally," said Bernard Coleman, one of Second Genesis' popular intake counselors, who visits halfway houses and the Children's Center to find eligible youths.
"I'm getting feedback from probation officers and judges that there are some 6 to 10 kids who need the program and can't get into it. That hurts, especially looking at kids like Bobby. Their lives have been turned around."
To be admitted to the program, youths involved with drugs must be referred by the courts. Once in, no drugs are allowed; the only highs come from residents' achievements in mastering increasing amount of responsibility in the house.
Second Genesis provides its residents with a wide variety of counseling services with special programs for teen-agers. Before they can graduate, they must earn high school equivalency diplomas, find jobs, formulate career plans and attend family counseling sessions aimed at reuniting often tragically broken families.
By contrast, over the past 10 years the District has offered only a patchwork of services for drug abusers in general and teen-agers in particular.
According to Maury Hatton, Director of the Youth Abstinence Treatment Program at 613 B St. NW, the old Narcotics Treatment Administration began in early 1969 to offer methadone maintenance for adults.
Officials attempted to start a juvenile branch, "but we had so many coming back then," said Hatton, that services for teens were discontinued in 1973.
The District maintained one residential community for abusers, called Merge House, but the program stopped taking juveniles in 1975. Merge House was phased out this summer, another victim of the budget crunch.
For residential therapy, the District relies upon private groups, like Rap, Inc. or Second Genesis. But since the District prefers to keep juveniles and adults segregated in residential communities, some facilities aren't open to teen-agers.
Presently, the District offers out-patient counseling at the G Street office for about 184 youths aged 18 and under, and "surveillance services" such as periodic urine tests to determine whether residents stay drug-free.
Administrator Hatton and counselors alike aren't sure how effective a job they're doing.
"The drug problem is so widespread and comes at you from so many angles, and the attitude of society toward drug use is so free and liberal, it's difficult to measure the effect of something like this," he said. l
Second Genesis residents, many of whom had been on an extended tour of the city's juvenile centers, are quick to agree that halfway houses don't go far enough in arresting nascent criminal or self-abusive behavior.
"At a halfway house you can do anything you want; here you have to deserve to go out, to get your personal stuff," said Bobby, thinking back to his first days at Second Genesis. Bobby was admitted to the program as much because of his criminal record as for drug use.
"I started drinking at 13, I seen my friends start. When I was 14, I broke into trains, stole bicycles. I broke into houses with some friends I met in a halfway house. I was doing crimes and when I was locked up I started doing more crimes," he said, reiterating a line often repeated by the staff: that halfway houses do no good unless they are able to change behavior. s
"We contend that drugs are not the problem, the problem is behavior," said Colman. "Warehousing them isn't going to do any good. You become a better criminal, that's all."
Bobby was at the point of going to jail when he met Coleman and Peter Crockett, another intake counselor. He admits that, at first, the program's almost military regimen turned him off.
"I thought they were trying to send me to a nuthouse. I didn't want to come. It was wild; people were standing in the door with signs around their necks and stocking caps and stuff. I wanted to go back," he said, laughing. He was referring to one of the "contracts," a Second Genesis mainstay in keeping with the program's confrontation approach.
In time he, too, would find himself wearing a sign or a stocking cap to show himself and his peers that he wasn't facing up to his behavior. His sign often said. "I do wrong for the sake of doing wrong, please help me do right."
Heather, at 19, is one of the few young women in the program.
"The women," said Alexandria House Director Michele Flowers, who takes charge of all the teen-agers, "tend to slip through the cracks of the criminal justice system. Fewer girls come because the courts are lighter on them. They'll let them go and let them go and then they'll look at the record and say, 10 years!"
Heather was a good contender for that sentence. On juvenile probation since she was 14, she ran away to Los Angeles at 16 with a 24-year-old boyfriend.
"We were trying to hold people up for money so we could shoot dope," she said with a shy, embarrassed smile. "And I got caught." Her counselors report that, at first, Heather wouldn't talk, especially not to other women. "I always thought women were -- I can't say that word anymore -- I thought they would stab me in my back. Men were easier. I always knew that if I started talking to a man I could get high."
The program's primary tool is the encounter group, held several times a week and guided by counselors, to help kids overcome their old habits and self-images. "The biggest problem with D.C. kids especially is their images," said Coleman. "They want to talk big, they want to be big. They want to be gangsters. They say, 'I don't care it I go to the penitentiary. I know I can handle it.' But the truth is, they don't know anything about it."
"Image is everything," said Flowers. "Once they find out that images are not that important they can give a sigh of relief and go back to being kids again."
The program prides itself on the "mix" of the staff -- there are professional social workers, doctors and educators, as well as ex-addicts who have straightened themselves out and become counselors. But they worry that their efforts are jeopardized by the lack of "aftercare" facilities for teen-agers who may have overcome their own problems but have nowhere to go after they "graduate" from the program.
"Sometimes the families don't want them. They've done a lot for themselves but they're still in need of role models. That's my primary concern," said counselor Ray Brown.
Bobby seconded the point. "When I go home, it's me. There's nobody making sure I do right. I got to start looking at the strength I have within myself because up to now I've been looking at the staff to kick my butt."
In the face of the budget cuts, Second Genesis staffers believe they will have to put off their hope for aftercare facilities and concentrate on the immediate problem of securing funds for their D.C. referrals.
Unless funds can be found, they will be hearing fewer testimonials from people like Bobby, who said of the program, "All in all, I'm just a stronger person. I like the way I've gotten myself together."