Halfway house to mark opening

Howard House facility treats recovering addicts

`A continuum of care'

Program labeled a need more than 10 years ago

May 05, 2004|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Howard County officials will mark the opening next week of Howard House, the first halfway house for recovering addicts in the county, which health and drug treatment officials have been seeking for more than a decade.

The renovated facility - on the grounds of Sheppard Pratt at Ellicott City - will serve as a home base for a maximum of 15 men who have completed a higher level of substance abuse treatment and want to rebuild their lives. The halfway house will provide recovering addicts with a program that was identified as a needed service more than a decade ago.

"It's adding to a continuum of care in a county that really has no residential treatment at all," said Dr. Penny E. Borenstein, Howard County's health officer.

"It's not going to fix all of our needs - for inpatient care in particular - but it certainly is another piece in the puzzle providing a whole range of services to people with substance abuse needs," Borenstein said.

Howard House is meant provide a supportive, homelike environment to newly recovering addicts. The goal is to help them begin to build a drug-free life, instead of returning to a setting where they are likely to fall back into bad habits, said Tom Cargiulo, director of substance abuse services with the county Health Department.

"Halfway houses give [recovering addicts] a place to go to continue treatment, start working, save up money and transition into the community, so they don't have to go back to that high-risk environment," Cargiulo said. The county's Drug and Alcohol Advisory Board had highlighted the need for a halfway house for several years, Borenstein said.

Two years ago, Howard County released the DELTA project (Drug abuse: Evaluation of Legal and Treatment Alternatives), a report on an in-depth investigation of substance abuse in the county. One of the key recommendations was providing in-patient drug treatment.

Initial funding for the halfway house included $70,000 in county money and $153,500 in startup funds from the Horizon Foundation, county health officials said. Most of the money went toward renovation of the Howard House building on the grounds of Sheppard Pratt at Ellicott City, formerly Taylor Manor Hospital.

The health department won a $200,000 state grant that the county matched to cover the project's operating budget of more than $400,000 for the next fiscal year, beginning July 1.

Vanguard Services Unlimited, a Virginia-based drug treatment services provider, will manage the daily operations of Howard House. The health department will share case management responsibilities.

The first four residents moved in March 23.

"For a particular group of people who come out of a more intensive setting, where they've been detoxed, they need a supportive environment that allows them to participate in community life," said Peter F. Luongo, director of the state Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration.

In addition to completing a drug treatment program, house residents must be older than 18 and drug- or alcohol-free for at least 28 days. The expected stay is six months, and residents must work or attend school.

Howard House occupants live two to a room, receive help looking for work and housing, and are provided with other life skills, such as cooking. They attend group therapy five times a week and receive individual therapy once a week. The house is staffed 24 hours a day.

Residents pay for services on a sliding scale, depending on their income, from $25 a week to a maximum of $150 a week.

Officials will celebrate the opening of Howard House at 4 p.m. Monday at Sheppard Pratt at Ellicott City, 3400 College Ave. Tours of the house will be given. Speakers will include Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and County Executive James N. Robey.

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