Shelter near BIA to get face-lift, new leadership

Posted March 08, 2010, at 9:23 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The management of the Acadia Recovery Community is changing, along with the nature and scope of the services provided there. Over the coming months, clients of the longtime “wet” shelter and substance abuse treatment facility near the airport will see physical renovations, an increase in the number of over-night beds, an on-site health clinic and a new daytime program for those who are serious about getting clean and sober.

The facility also will reclaim its former and still-familiar name, Hope House.

These changes are still in the planning stages, but some in the Bangor community already are upset at the dislocation last week of a long-standing meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous that no longer will be allowed to gather at the shelter due to the coming transitions.

The Acadia Recovery Community is owned and operated by The Acadia Hospital, an inpatient and outpatient psychiatric facility located on Stillwater Avenue in Bangor. The Acadia Hospital is a member of Brewer-based Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems. Since last September, talks about transferring ownership of the Acadia Recovery Community have been under way with Penobscot Community Health Care, a state- and federally funded organization operating from clinical sites in Bangor, Brewer and Old Town.

On Monday, PCHC’s president, the Rev. Bob Carlson, confirmed that PCHC will in the near future assume ownership and administration of the Acadia Recovery Community and will rename it Hope House.

Carlson is a fixture in the Bangor-area substance abuse recovery community and a founder in 1973 of the original Hope House shelter, which was set up in an old wooden barracks at the former Dow Air Force Base near the current shelter.

“Hope House was designed for the sick and suffering alcoholic who is on the street, who is seeking refuge in a safe place,” he said. The new Hope House will continue to provide shelter and meals to individuals who arrive at the door, he said, even those who are actively under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

In addition, shelter clients will have access to an on-site health clinic and a comprehensive day program that provides a structured approach to getting clean and sober, finding housing and in other ways reclaiming one’s life, he said. The facility also will undergo renovations to increase its capacity from about 45 beds to about 65 beds, he said. Currently, as many as 60 men and women are sometimes sheltered, with the overflow sleeping in chairs in the facility‘s dining room.

Carlson said the shelter and treatment programs at Hope House are a good match for PCHC’s mission of providing medical, psychological, dental and substance abuse care to the most disadvantaged and underserved individuals, including those with no health care coverage and no ability to pay. In fact, he said, PCHC has for more than a year been providing medical care to Acadia Recovery Community clients through its Summer Street clinic in downtown Bangor.

By taking over the entire operation, he said, PCHC will be able to provide more comprehensive and coordinated on-site services to the clients of the shelter, many of whom suffer from complex medical and mental health disorders as well as acute substance abuse problems.

At The Acadia Hospital, Vice President and Chief of Clinical Services Brent Scobie said PCHC has proved itself a capable provider of services to the most disadvantaged people. Scobie said the annual number of overnight stays at the shelter has risen from about 14,000 to about 20,000 in the past two years, with a commensu-rate increase in the acuity and complexity of the illnesses of the clients. The high-needs individuals served by the Acadia Recovery Community will benefit from PCHC’s integrative approach, he said.

The official transfer of ownership and responsibility of the facility is expected to be made final in the next 30 days or so. Meanwhile, some changes already are under way.

On Monday morning, a man who identified himself as an AA member with many years of sobriety told the Bangor Daily News that the 7 p.m. “Beginners Big Book Group” meetings on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays have been discontinued at the Acadia Recovery Community. Members were notified last Friday during the regular morning “Early Bird Step Group” meeting that that evening’s meeting would be the last, he said. The morning meetings — 7:30 Monday through Friday, 8:30 Saturday and 9 Sunday — have not been changed.

The man said the evening meetings are attended by as many as 40 people, a mix of those struggling to achieve and maintain sobriety and those who are further along in their recovery from drinking and drug use. There’s nothing to prevent AA from finding a new location for the evening meetings, he said, but meetings held at the shelter provide important outreach for individuals in acute need of the acceptance and support of the AA program.

The evening meetings at the shelter have been a staple in the area for many years, he added.

“I know people who’ve been sober for 20-odd years and that was their first meeting,” he said. “They are shutting down a vital service to this community.”

Carlson said the meeting needed to be moved to make room for expanded bed space and programming areas at the shelter. He said he would work with area AA leaders to find a new location for the thrice-weekly meetings, and noted that several other AA groups meet locally on weeknights.

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