May 23, 2018
Hancock Latest News | Poll Questions | Lunch Debt | Robert Indiana | Stolen Shed

Funding drop forces Ellsworth recovery center to make tough decisions

By Rich Hewitt, BDN Staff

ELLSWORTH, Maine — In April, the Open Door Recovery Center celebrated its 25th anniversary of providing outpatient substance abuse rehabilitation services to residents of Hancock County as well as neighboring counties.

Four months later, it was forced to close Hills House, a safe, supervised home for women and their babies during drug or alcohol rehabilitation treatment at Open Door. The center had to cut back on other programs, as well, because of a significant loss of funding.

According to Open Door Director Barbara Royal, the economy has hurt people’s ability to give, with serious ramifications for the center. Donations provide a good portion of the center’s $1.5 million budget and without them, Royal said, the center, its program and its clients will suffer.

“Some of these people have supported the center for a long time,” she said. “But the economy has affected their ability to give. Some of them took such hard hits that they’ve had to retract their giving.”

The big hit for the nonprofit center came from the loss of a $250,000 annual endowment. Those funds usually come in January, but the donor has informed the center that they will not be available for the coming year.

“That’s $250,000 that’s gone as of January. We’re starting the year without that money,” Royal said. “But it’s not just the big donors. Even the smaller donations, the $5, $10, $25. That’s just not happening. The reality is that middle- and lower-class people want to give what little they can, but they’re having to hold on to what they’ve got for survival.”

The center could come up short by as much as $450,000, almost a third of its annual budget, but Royal said the center needs to raise at least $350,000 in order “to be secure.” If the center doesn’t get it, it will likely have to look at cutting additional programs.

Over the past 25 years, Open Door, located off Route 179, has treated more than 4,500 people through its 10-week intensive outpatient program, Royal said. About 60 people on average receive services at the center any given week. Many of those who graduate from the program also follow up through a six-month aftercare program and have stayed drug-free during that time.

In the two years it operated, the Hills House provided a safe place for 25 women and their children while they completed the treatment program.

“Some are pregnant, some are dealing with losing their child because of their addictions, and some are reuniting with their child which had been taken because of the addiction,” Royal said. “This provides a safe place where they can continue to be a family.”

Sometimes the fathers are included, although they do not stay at Hills House.

Keeping the mothers and babies together can reduce the impact of attachment disorder in babies taken from their mothers. It’s a problem that can cause complications later in life, said Nancy Hunt, manager of Hills House. It also helps the mothers to focus on their rehabilitation, she said.

“When the child is not there, the mother is distracted,” Hunt said. “They can relax when the baby is here; they feel safe and they can concentrate on their recovery.”

Open Door also works in the schools providing educational and counseling programs and also works with inmates at the Hancock County Jail in Ellsworth. Over the years, the center also has cooperated on inpatient and outpatient detox treatment with Maine Coast Memorial Hospital in Ellsworth. A doctor from the hospital works closely with staff and is on site part-time.

The loss of treatment has a tremendous impact on the community. With the loss of treatment services, she said, comes an increase in emergency room visits, and an increase in crime as addicts look for ways to pay for drugs.

“For every active addict, state statistics show that there are at least 20 to 25 people affected by that addiction — relatives, friends, co-workers,” Royal said. “There is an impact on the community, the work force, the schools. The ripple effect from just one client is significant.”

The center is planning a fundraising event on Jan. 23, 2010, at Ellsworth High School. The details are still being worked out, but the evening will include entertainment and comments from some of the center’s clients

People who want to contribute to the center may send donations to 8 Old Mill Road, P.O. Box 958, Ellsworth 04605 or check its Web site at


Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

You may also like