March 4, 2010

Serenity House to add outpatient counseling

TREVOR MAXWELL

— By

Staff Writer

PORTLAND — One of Maine's only homes for men with drug and alcohol addictions soon will add outpatient counseling to its list of services.

For the past 42 years, Serenity House in Portland has provided a sober short-term environment and health treatment for men, many of whom are making the transition from detox programs or jails back into the community.

The new outpatient component will support men after they graduate from the three-month residential program.

''We're very excited about this and we're hoping to begin doing the outpatient piece after the beginning of the new year,'' said Robert Dawber, who took over as executive director of the nonprofit Serenity House in 2006.

Renovations are under way in what will become an outpatient treatment office on the Mellen Street property.

Dawber, his staff and many of the clients who now occupy the house's 33 beds opened their doors on Thursday so that legislators, members of the media and the public could learn about Serenity House.

The program gets about half of its $500,000 annual budget from the state Office of Substance Abuse, so Dawber is working to build his relationships with government officials.

''We really want to drive the point home to legislators and the community how important this program is to the state,'' Dawber said.

Rep. Sarah Lewin, R-Eliot, and Jennifer Duddy, a representative in Portland for U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, were among the handful of visitors.

By investing some money in treatment programs like Serenity House, Dawber said, society reaps big savings on the back end: fewer visits to jails and emergency rooms, more people going back to work and back to their families.

''When we see people reunited with the wives and children, when they are healthy, when they find jobs, those are true measures of success,'' Dawber said.

Half of the clients who are admitted to the house make it through the full 90 days without using drugs or alcohol. Of the people who do use while living at the house, some are dismissed from the program and others stay, depending on the circumstances. Three out of four clients meet the treatment goals set by staffers when the clients arrive, Dawber said.

''We're trying to be the pre-eminent sober house for men in Maine,'' said Roger Prince, an accountant in Portland who is president of Serenity House's board of directors.

St. Francis House in Auburn, Wellspring in Bangor and the Portland-based Milestone Foundation offer comparable services.

Bruce ''Moose'' Davidson, 36, of Portland has lived at Serenity House since Aug. 18. He's a former bartender who is trying to get sober for the first time in his adult life.

''This has been a godsend to me,'' Davidson said of Serenity House. ''I want to get sober for myself this time, not for anybody else, and that was a big step for me.''

Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at:

tmaxwell@pressherald.com

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