MACHIAS, Maine — A grass-roots group of concerned residents began meeting nearly three years ago to plan a transitional home for women in Washington County with drug or alcohol addictions.
This month they moved into the next phase: buying a residence in Machias.
The Recovery Support Network is in the midst of sensitive negotiations, Marta Conlin, program director, said this week, so details are being kept private. But purchasing the house has been a long-term goal, RSN members said.
“We need to raise $50,000, one dollar at a time,” she said. “It may seem like a lot of money but once the home is opened, it will create jobs for four or five paraprofessionals. It is a good investment in the long run. It builds infrastructure within the community.”
“We are a people with a passion to be part of the solution,” RSN President June Ashmore said. “This will be the first of many homes we hope to establish around the county.”
Conlin said women in Washington County who are trying to recover from substance abuse face many barriers. “Children to care for, partners who are also abusing substances, dysfunctional family life, low education level or employment skills, even transportation and reliable day care present difficulties to women,” she said. “Low self-esteem and lack of confidence or self-worth are often a woman’s deepest problem. There are few programs or places available in the state where women can enter into residential treatment, and only one in Maine that would allow their children to accompany them.”
Ashmore said there are lots of providers in Washington County but that “this piece — a home — is missing. We know we can’t save all the women but we can save one at a time.”
Maine Lighthouse of Bar Harbor has served as a catalyst for the creation of RSN, beginning in 2006 with group discussions among women in recovery, local church leaders, and child advocates.
Since then, the group has formed a grass-roots membership organization, incorporated with the state and is now seeking nonprofit status.
Lighthouse was awarded a one-year planning grant to help the network develop policies and procedures to operate the home, build the organizational structure and work toward financial sustainability. The Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration awarded the grant.
With a permanent home, recovering women could use local outpatient services while living in a safe and sober home environment.
“Imagine a clean, attractive and structured home environment for four to eight women and their children,” Conlin said. “Living in the house is an individual woman that helps foster the structure, enforce house rules, and generally provide a positive role model for sober and productive living. The women pay rent and may stay a month or many months.”
Conlin said resident women could be working in the community, attending classes or doing service work. They could use such services as Parents Are Teachers Too, Women, Work and Community, Sexual Assault Services, and others.
Conlin said life skills such as healthful cooking, managing money, housekeeping, and juggling recovery efforts with the needs of nurturing a child will be fostered in the home.
“Over time, the women will gain the strength and abilities to move on to independent living,” she said.
Ashmore said Washington County has been particularly hard-hit by prescription drug addiction.
“Everyone in Washington County is affected by substance abuse,” RSN treasurer Donn King said. “Everyone has their own story to tell.”
“I lived in a community of less than 1,000 people. I could name 50 places where I could buy drugs,” Conlin said. “We need to serve these people. They are such a large part of our communities.”
Conlin said it is easier for women to become addicted to prescription drugs and harder for them to recover. She said she and Ashmore would be happy to speak to local clubs and organizations about the transition house. “We will also be holding lots of fundraisers in the future.”
“We will establish this first home as a good model,” Ashmore said. “Once we get the first home established, the others will come more easily.”
For information about donating to or participating in the project, call Conlin at 207-263-6272 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.