Council delays residential program for addicted mothers for one year

April 12, 1994|By Deidre Nerreau McCabe and Liz Atwood | Deidre Nerreau McCabe and Liz Atwood,Sun Staff Writers

A residential treatment program for addicted mothers was delayed at least a year by the Annapolis City Council last night -- even though the members included $173,000 for the project in its five-year spending plan.

A majority on the council voted to delay the funding so that public hearings could be held on whether the residential center should be housed in a community recreation facility.

"Why have more drugs brought into a community when you're trying to get the drugs out of the community?" said Alderman Samuel Gilmer, D-Ward 3, concerned about having drug addicts living in the Stanton Community Center -- in a neighborhood already rife with drug problems.

"The Stanton Center is supposed to be a community center. You don't mess drugs up with healthy little children," he said.

But Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins and Alderman Carl O. Snowden, D-Ward 5, urged the council to go ahead with the funding for the 1995 fiscal year, which begins July 1. They said public hearings could be held before the money is released.

The $173,000 was proposed for the city's construction budget for fiscal 1995 to renovate the city-owned Stanton facility on West Washington Street. But the council, on a 5-4 vote,

earmarked the expenditure for fiscal 1996 instead.

If it goes forward, the city also is expected to contribute $125,000 annually to help run the center.

"There's a dire need for this kind of program in the community," Emily Wimbush-Green, director of Community Services and Substance Abuse, said earlier. She has spent more than a year planning what would be first residential program run by the City of Annapolis.

She said the new program, developed by the Washington-based firm Johnson & Associates, will provide six months of intense, residential treatment to be followed by a year of "relapse prevention" therapy, in which women must continue treatment twice a week at the center.

During the residential phase, mothers and their children will live in small apartments at the center. Keeping mothers and children together will be crucial to the program's success, said Ms. Wimbush-Green.

"Research shows there's a lot of women [with children] out there who need treatment," she said. "But two-thirds of them don't get it because they fear being separated from their children. Many are afraid if they go into treatment, they won't get their kids back."

The program will be housed on two floors to be added to the center. There will be room for 30 women and their children. The residents must care for their families in the morning and evening. Group and individual therapy sessions will be held while youngsters are at day care or school.

Residents will receive counseling and information on parenting skills, nutrition and other relevant topics, as well as treatment for what may have lead them to addiction.

"We've got to address the dual diagnosis," said Ms. Wimbush-Greene, explaining that many addicted women have been sexually or physically abused. Traditional drug treatment programs may not address these problems, she said, which makes the likelihood of relapse higher.

Although the program is geared toward single mothers on public assistance, organizers have to determine whether others, such as women with husbands, will be accepted.

"What we're trying to do is provide support and to address all the family's needs," said Mr. Valliere, a health care consultant in Bethesda. He and three others have formed a partnership to assemble a funding package to cover the renovation.

The entire project, including renovation of the existing building, will cost about $3 million.

Alderman Snowden said the Stanton project is an opportunity the city can't afford to turn down.

"That building has been badly neglected for the past 30 years," he said, adding that the city doesn't have the money to fix it. "This is the only proposal for that building and it would bring in nearly $3 million. We desperately need this program and this project."

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