Father Martin's Ashley, a nationally recognized alcohol and drug abuse treatment center which overlooks the Chesapeake Bay near Havre de Grace, holds a special place in Nancy Reagan's heart.
"I've heard for many years how lives have been changed at Ashley, including the life of one very special friend," said the former first lady Friday. She paused to smile at a man sitting in the front row of the 700-member audience gathered on the Ashley lawn for dedication ceremonies for the new adolescent treatment center.
The man was Michael K. Deaver, former deputy chief of staff during Ronald Reagan's presidency and a former patient at the center. He now volunteers as a counselor at Ashley.
"I've now become a part ofAshley, too," said Nancy Reagan, referring to the new teen treatmentcenter. Her comments were brief, but several times during her speechshe was overcome by tears and had to pause.
The Nancy Reagan Hallfor Adolescents will offer a specially designed program for teens addicted to drugs or alcohol. It will be the first such program at Ashley, which has traditionally focused its efforts on helping adults with alcohol or drug addictions.
The cost of starting the center, which will house up to 20 teen patients, and its first year of operationwill be paid for with the help of a $250,000 grant from The Nancy Reagan Foundation. The foundation issues about 100 grants a year to programs aimed at fighting drug and alcohol abuse. It was established in1989 by the former first lady, who is known for her "Just Say No" campaign against drug abuse.
Friday's dedication, attended by representatives of Harford and Cecil counties chapters of Students Against Drunk Driving, was sometimes emotion- and tear-filled and featured a performance of a new song written for Nancy Reagan by country music composer Paul Richey.
Richey, along with a chorus of young children, sang the song. Some of the lyrics from "The First Lady":
"Yes, now there's a place to go, where we can learn to live and love again, where kids like us can all fit in. Who knows? Maybe someday we'll alllearn to 'Just Say No.' "
During the ceremony, Tammy Bell, a consultant who is helping counselors at Ashley set up the new adolescent counseling program, described how the new program will help teens.
She said it has three elements:
* Getting teens to accept their chemical dependence, instead of "just using recovery language."
* Providing counseling for the entire family.
* Providing up to one year of follow-up outpatient counseling once a teen leaves.
"Families can now come forward with some reduction of shame. You did that for us," Bell said, addressing Reagan directly.
"They now know that it's a national problem, and maybe it's not so awful to have this problem," she said.
Ashley has been in operation for about eight years. It was started by the Rev. Joseph C. Martin, a Catholic priest -- himself an alcoholic -- who has been sober for 32 years, and Lora MaeAbraham.
The center has accepted some teens with substance abuse problems, and some of the graduates of the program spoke at the dedication.
"Today, I'm a winner. I completed high school, married the man of my dreams and have a 7 1/2-year-old daughter who never has to beashamed of what her mother does," said Susan L., who described herself as an alcoholic, who "God willing" would celebrate two years of sobriety as of yesterday.
"I hope my little girl will grow up and learn to 'Just Say No,' but if she doesn't, now I know there will be aspecial place for her to get help."
Deaver also was emotional about the prospect of a new program tailored especially for 13- to 17-year-olds.
"Obviously I'm grateful to Ashley, it gave me my life," he said.
"Imagine how my life would have changed if I had come hereas a teen-ager instead of at age 47."