Drug Center Will Enable County To Take Care Of Its Own

October 29, 1990|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff writer

When Anne Arundel teen-agers try to escape the fatal attraction of alcohol and drugs, the cure can be painful for their families.

Parents often spend hours commuting to the nearest residential treatment center to participate in counseling. Since the county has no inpatient program for adolescents, families can wind up driving to centers as far away as Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Spurred by the shortage of programs close to home, health officials and youth advocates issued a report in 1986 calling for a residential center in the county. They enlisted the support of County Executive O. James Lighthizer, who knew parents shuttling to out-of-state centers and "saw a crying need for a program here."

And four years of lobbying for financial backing and working out a partnership with the state and Anne Arundel Medical Center are finally paying off. Today, state, county and hospital officials will hoist the first ceremonial shovels of dirt at a ground-breaking ceremony for the new center on Riva Road in Annapolis.

Lighthizer, who persuaded the County Council to set aside $2 million for the program, called the project a high point for his administration. "This is something I'm really proud of, something I really wanted to see happen," the outgoing executive said.

The state has agreed to chip in another $2.5 million to build Anne Arundel's first residential center for teens and young adults. Construction of the 40-bed building on four acres of county-owned land behind the Board of Education building is slated to start next spring.

Although the doors won't swing open until spring of 1992, the hospital already hired a director to supervise the design of the building and develop a program for the center that's been named Pathways.

David E. Woodward, 41, who used to head a 26-bed residential program in Richmond, Ind., came to Annapolis in September to begin drafting plans for Pathways. The program will be run by Anne Arundel Medical Center.

Woodward is working with the architects Weller, Fishback & Bohl of Annapolis to design a modern, airy center with separate bedroom wings, a gym, dining hall and classrooms.

He also is meeting with county health officials to pinpoint trends, such as the sharply increasing use of blotter acid (LSD) among high school and college students.

Woodward intends to develop a structured, family-oriented program to offer six-to-eight week treatment for 12- to 17-year-olds and five-week sessions for 18- to 25-year-olds. The center will have 16 beds for teen-agers and 18 beds for young adults, along with six detoxification beds.

"One of the biggest challenges will be to get the families involved," he said. "Many parents in Anne Arundel County have been driving a couple of hours to get to see their kids, so they miss parts of the recovery. You lose something by not being involved."

Any teen-ager in the county who needs more intensive treatment than an outpatient program offers can enter Pathways -- even if the parents can't afford the cost. The only real price to admission is that parents must agree to participate in therapy.

The hospital received the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's stamp of approval to qualify for Medicare and Medicaid support.

Insurance companies also will underwrite some costs, allowing Pathways to earmark 30 percent of its care for youths who can't pay their bills.

"This can happen to any family, no matter what your economic status," Lighthizer said.

Jonathan T. Lord, the hospital's medical quality assurance director who hired Woodward, cited the growing demand for adolescent treatment as the main impetus for opening Pathways. Last year, the hospital found that 19 youths a month were referred to inpatient programs outside the county.

"We really saw a need in our community," he said. "This allows the rest of the family to stay in contact with their child and keep that continuum."

Lord and Woodward want to develop a model program, a "state-of-the-art facility" that gives teen-agers the chance to break the cycle of addiction and families the chance to help.

"I believe that anyone who wants to try, can recover," said Woodward, an energetic and enthusiastic counselor. "It's a long, hard road, but it can be done."

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