A house that saves lives New way of life': Chrysalis House has a high success rate in helping women become free of alcohol and drug addiction.

November 09, 1995|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

One night in March 1993, Shirley Baskerville, body reeling from vodka, crack cocaine and heroin, walked the streets of Baltimore and wished someone would step out of the shadows and kill her.

"I decided I wanted to die," Ms. Baskerville said. "Treatment was not an option for me."

Two years later, the 43-year-old Severna Park resident is free of her addictions and is studying to become a child therapist. She credits her transformation to Chrysalis House.

The long-term residential recovery center for women has a new, two-story home on five acres at 1570 Crownsville Road in Crownsville and is inviting the public to visit today between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Women addicted to alcohol and drugs can stay at Chrysalis House for up to a year. The house, run by a nine-member staff, has space for 19 women and 10 of their children. It has a nursery, a meeting room, and a library.

The home cost about $1.7 million to buy and turn into a residential center. Most of the money came from the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Community Development Administration.

The new site replaces a small, 9-year-old rancher on Jumpers Hole Road in Pasadena that had room for 10 women.

"We were turning away 30 women a month [at the old house], and many of them were pregnant women," said Lorene Lake, executive director of Chrysalis House. "We still get calls from women who were turned away and are still looking to get in."

Chrysalis House's rehabilitation program involves three steps that force the woman to recognize what led to her addiction and attend 90 therapy sessions in the first 90 days. The resident then takes high school or college classes, or finds a job through Chrysalis House.

During the final three months, the woman starts planning the rest of her life and looking for a place to live.

Ms. Lake, who was hired in February 1994, has seen eight women move out of the house. One of those graduates returned to drugs, she said.

More than 100 women are applying to get into Chrysalis House, and nine have been accepted, Ms. Lake said. Many women have trouble leaving their world behind, she said.

"Many find that they have to give up their old environment because if they go back, they may do the same thing all over again," Ms. Lake said. "It may mean staying far away from the family. That's very difficult for them to do."

One of Ms. Baskerville's problems was admitting she needed help. Addicted to crack cocaine and vodka, she sometimes attended church services and PTA meetings high or drunk.

She entered Chrysalis House on April 4, 1993, and graduated April 10, 1994. She enrolled at Anne Arundel Community College as a human services and sociology major. She has taken six semesters and has made the honor roll every semester. When she finishes, she wants to move on to the University of Maryland and get a bachelor's in sociology.

"If I had to sum it all up, this house saved my life," Ms. Baskerville said as she looked around the new house. "They gave me a foundation to live without drugs or alcohol. I was introduced to a new way of life."

Ms. Lake said success stories such as Ms. Baskerville's help underscore "why you do what you do. Knowing that she has a chance that she didn't have the year before is wonderful."

For Ms. Baskerville, a week is not complete without a visit to her friends at Chrysalis House.

"This is still a home to me," she said. "They're still my family."

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