By MELINDA WILLIAMS
A Dublin man says his decision to undergo methadone treatment for an opiate addiction ended up being “more of a Band-Aid than a fix.”
Barry Steven Huff II, 30, told a Pulaski County judge Friday he “firmly believes” he was swapping one addiction for another when he chose to enter himself into a methadone treatment program in Galax a year ago. He was in court for violating probation on convictions of malicious wounding and larceny.
Huff told Circuit Court Judge Marcus Long Jr. he is a drug addict in need of help. He said he has been using drugs since he was about 17 years old and admitted to “shooting up” the methadone he was allowed to take home on weekends instead of taking it as prescribed.
“I’m a drug addict. I’d do whatever I could to get high,” he told the court.
Huff chose to enter himself into the methadone program rather than attend other programs recommended by his probation officer, Vanessa Duncan, according to testimony. He said he thought he would be able to take the methadone a couple of months and wean himself off other drugs, but it didn’t work.
Duncan described Huff’s adjustment to probation as “negative.” She said the revocation hearing is the result of Huff having failed multiple drug tests; having received new convictions, including possession of Xanax, in Montgomery County, and having failed to pay any restitution to the malicious wounding victim since 2008.
At the time of his arrest on the Montgomery charges, Duncan said, a hypodermic needle and a bottle containing urine was found in Huff’s possession. Huff testified the urine was a friend’s and that he used it in place of his own urine for drug tests at work so his employer wouldn’t know he was taking methadone treatments.
According to testimony, Huff was in charge of masonry work on a building being constructed at Virginia Tech. Huff’s employer sent a letter to the court, calling Huff a valued employee and saying he will still have a job regardless of how long it takes for him to be released from jail.
“It’s hard to know someone put their faith in me and I let them down,” Huff told his defense attorney, Matthew Roberts, in reference to the employer’s letter.
Huff’s mother has custody of Huff’s three children, ages 7, 10 and 12, according to evidence. Huff said the children’s mother gave up custody and went to North Carolina when he was sent to prison.
Huff’s mother said her boyfriend died in March, leaving her to provide for the children alone since Huff has been incarcerated and unable to provide financial assistance.
Although Huff lived with her most of the time, the mother said she never saw him under the influence of drugs when he was around the children. “I wouldn’t allow it,” she said, adding that Huff was aware she wouldn’t.
Huff said he would “go off on his own” to do drugs. He said he was off drugs when he got out of prison, but he injured his shoulder and doctors prescribed an opiate drug for the pain.
“I knew I shouldn’t take it,” he said of the prescription. He told the court he thought he would be okay, but “I got a taste for it again.” He said the methadone program cost him about $600 per week, when gas to Galax was figured into the equation.
Judge Long said it doesn’t appear Huff has done much to help himself get off drugs over the years – referring to two treatment programs Huff failed to attend.
“I thought I was (helping himself) when I went to the methadone clinic, but looking back now I know it was a mistake,” Huff responded.
The judge wondered if Huff was also helping himself when he obtained the friend’s urine in order to hide the addiction from his employer. Huff said he knew that was wrong.
“I want to get clean more than anything,” Huff said. He said he wants to stop letting others and himself down and he now knows he cannot overcome his addiction alone. “I’m 30 years old. It’s time for me to be an adult for my kids now,” Huff added.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Fleenor said Huff “clearly” has a drug problem and “I’m sure he’s sincere when he says he wants to get off them.” However, he said Huff has had opportunities in the past and not taken them.
Fleenor said the only reason Huff chose to take part in the Galax program was so he could get methadone. He called such programs “controversial programs for sure” and said Huff isn’t alone in feeling the program was a mistake.
“It’s hard to be sympathetic when he’s been given opportunities and didn’t take them,” said Fleenor. He asked that completion of the New Life drug treatment program (six months inpatient care, followed by 18 months of “after care”) be a condition of any future probationary release for Huff, but said it shouldn’t be an alternative to incarceration.
Roberts said his client “wants to get off the road he’s on.”
“What I’m hearing you say is vastly different from what I’m seeing you do,” Judge Long told Huff. He added that people “say all kinds of things” when they are brought before the court.
The judge pointed out Huff had children the whole time he was on probation, but it’s only when he is faced with being sent back to prison that “they’re suddenly more important to you. I don’t know if it’s true, but I hope it is.”
State sentencing guidelines called for Huff to receive three to four years of the six years remaining on his prior convictions. “I’m not real big on them, especially when (the case) involves drugs,” said Long.
He added, “You’re just one cog in a big wheel in a county that has a terrible drug problem and you’re helping to contribute to that problem.”
The judge ordered that Huff be sent back to prison for four years. Upon release, Huff will be placed on three years of active probation, with a special condition that Huff enroll in and complete treatment under the New Life program.
He also urged Huff to take part in any treatment programs that might be available through the Department of Corrections while incarcerated.