ANNAPOLIS – It’s difficult for women with children to leave their lives, especially their children, to get treatment for a drug problem. Many get outpatient treatment, but for some it’s not enough.
Second Genesis Mellwood House is the state’s solution for those women. The home accepts women and their children and works at healing them together.
Last year, 19,536 women were admitted to state-certified alcohol and drug abuse treatment programs, 1,223 of whom were pregnant. While the majority of those women, 14,046, received outpatient care, 4,826 were treated in residential facilities.
The state emphasizes outpatient treatment to avoid more costly inpatient care down the line, said Debbie Chang, who runs the state Medicaid program, which pays for care at Mellwood.
And many women just don’t need such intensive treatment, said Thomas Davis, Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration director.
But for those who do, there’s Mellwood House, tucked in the back woods of Prince George’s County.
It’s a one-of-a-kind facility. One other residential facility accepts pregnant women. Mellwood House is for women who are already mothers, and they can bring two of their children to the home.
“There is a greater expectation of participation and accountability at Mellwood,” Davis said. “It meets the needs of women who require a certain amount of intensity.”
Women are usually referred to Mellwood by a social worker or their primary care provider. Some are sent by the courts. Davis said there is always demand for the program, but there is no waiting list – instead, women are referred to the next highest level of care available.
Mellwood clients do well when they leave the program, according to an eight-month follow-up by the Center for Substance Abuse Research. The study showed Mellwood House clients had higher abstinence, employment, health benefits, stable housing and arrest-free rates than those who entered Mellwood but did not complete treatment.
From the outside, Mellwood House looks like a roadside motel – brick with metal windows and an outdoor stairway. Only the colorful plastic play equipment gives it away as a place children live. Inside are cinder block walls and linoleum floors. The velvet chairs and Oriental carpet in the lobby have seen better days, but the inspirational messages displayed on the walls lend an air of cheeriness. In the hallway, a big tree with brightly colored leaves and plump pumpkins below it says “Changing for all the right reasons.” Mellwood has beds for 24 mothers, who are each allowed to bring two of their children, from newborn to age 10 – though most have more, said assistant program director Beatrice Crump.
“A lot of these moms wouldn’t go into treatment if they couldn’t take their kids, because there would be no one to care for them,” said Debbie Verbillis, ADAA chief of special populations.
It’s hard for women with children to successfully get off drugs, Crump said, because of the stress of raising children, often on their own. Mellwood’s program meets these needs the way other programs can’t.
“These women have been so torn down in the eyes of their children, who have been traumatized and terrorized by the things they’ve seen their mothers go through, that this program is more nourishing,” Crump said.
The mothers stick to a strict schedule, up at 6:30 a.m. and in bed by 10 p.m. Child care and counseling fill their days, and they can take classes to obtain their Graduate Equivalency Diploma. There is time set side for phone calls at night.
“No one really likes structure, but this program is about recognizing the need for it,” Crump said. For the children, there is a child therapist and two other specialists to address their problems from exposure to their mothers’ drug use. -30-