More than 70 recovering alcoholics and drug addicts will continue treatment in long-term programs that suffered severe budget cuts thanksto an infusion of county aid.
Three of the county's four halfway houses, which lost all their state support under last month's $450 million deficit-reduction package, will try to stay open at least untilthe end of the fiscal year. Meanwhile, another 20 beds for long-term care and an intensive outpatient treatment program will be added to Hope House, the county's largest residential program.
"We wanted to preserve as much of the continuum of care as possible," Health Officer Thomas C. Andrews said during a joint news conference Friday with County Executive Robert R. Neall. "We wanted to make sure people weren't going to end up in the street homeless."
With the help of $150,000 in county money, Samaritan House in Annapolis, Damascus House in Brooklyn Park, and Chrysalis House in Pasadena, hope to keep their programs going. But Raft House, a 43-bed halfway house in Crownsville, will close its doors Dec. 31.
The 30 men and women in rehabilitation at Raft House will be transferred to one of the other halfway houses or to the new 20-bed addition at Hope House, if it's finished in time. Some may be ready for intensive outpatient counseling, said Neall, who emphasized that he began pushing for the more cost-effective treatment while he was Maryland's first drug czar.
Intensive outpatient programs, which provide counseling up to four hours a day, have become increasingly popular in recent years because they allow recovering addicts to continue to work and live at home. They're also cheaper than live-in programs, which have a higher overhead.
If Hope House hasn't opened its 20-bed addition by the time Raft House closes, some of the clients could be moved into a section of the Crownsville Hospital Center complex that was renovated for victims of Desert Storm. The beds have been empty and waiting since February, when the hospital was put on standby to handle psychologically wounded soldiers. None came as the Persian Gulf war swiftly ended withfew casualties.
During the news conference, Andrews proposed to Neall that the wing also could be converted into a homeless shelter this winter. The executive promised to check into it.
The county aid earmarked by Neall will keep drug addicts from being forced out on the streets when the state stops its assistance Dec. 31. Faced with a $7 million slash in its budget for alcohol and drug treatment, the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene decided to eliminate all aid to long-term programs.
Most private, non-profit programs relied on the state for the lion's share of their budgets. Now, Damascus House, Samaritan House and Chrysalis House will turn toward the private sector for assistance.
Hope House received $100,000 of the $150,000 to expand its treatment and provide 20 beds for longer-term care.Some of the money also will be used for the new outpatient program.
Neall made clear that the county can't afford much more than $150,000 and might not be able to provide assistance next year if the state continues its budget-slashing program. He said he expects local governments will shoulder more of the cost-cutting burden.