July 22, 2013

Mercy substance abuse program helps 'Mommy be a better mommy'

The treatment program is designed to let the women's children live with them.

By Joe Lawlor jlawlor@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Shelly Fasano shares a hug with her daughter, Gina Carbone, 3, at McAuley Residence in Portland. Fasano is now in the last months of her two-year treatment program.

Photos by Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

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Shelly Fasano speaks about her experience with her 3-year-old daughter at McAuley Residence.

Additional Photos Below

Coggins said sometimes she has to explain to her daughter that she needs to go to meetings so that "Mommy can be a better mommy."

Maddie Wilson, 21, gave birth to her son 14 months ago, about a month after she showed up at the McAuley Residence. She said she grew up in an unstable household in Chicago, dropped out of school in the 10th grade and fell into substance abuse.

"I didn't know how to take care of myself, so how could I take care of a child?" Wilson said. "I had nothing, and I was going nowhere. I'm not sure what would have happened if I hadn't come here. I don't like to think about it."

Wilson has since earned her GED, and she plans to attend Southern Maine Community College for a career in radiology or as an elementary school teacher.

The McAuley Residence program offers more than addiction treatment, as the women can take classes in parenting, personal finance, job skills, and even in quilting and yoga. They also learn simple things, such as having a dinner in which everyone sits at the table together.

"Many of them have never sat down and had a real dinner together," said Laura Phillips, program manager at the McAuley Residence.

Phillips said the women are given a significant measure of independence. They pay rent to the Community Housing Authority of Maine. Many hold down part-time jobs or go to school, and while they have to meet certain milestones during their stay, they are free to do some activities, such as going to the store unsupervised.

Despite the fact that their freedom means the women could buy drugs on the street while unsupervised, program organizers said that hasn't been a problem.

"I am not going to hold their hand, because in the real world they are not going to have their hands held for everything," Phillips said.

The program's philosophy of fostering independence also makes it less expensive to run, Skahan said. Operational costs are about $180,000 per year, she said, with the costs contained by not employing a 24-hour staff and not directly providing many services. For instance, the women choose their own outside counselors, who meet with them at the McAuley Residence. In many cases, the women's insurance pays for their addiction counseling.

Phillips said that set-up is often better than having counselors within the program, because the women can keep the same counselors after they've left McAuley Residence.

Fasano said attending highly structured 28-day programs was not as helpful as being treated like an adult at McAuley.

"It's easy to do well when you're in the program and people are helping you all the time, but it doesn't really prepare you for when you get out," she said.

Fasano, a college graduate, currently works 20 hours per week as an executive assistant, and plans to further her career when she leaves in a few months, perhaps going back to school.

"Things are going to be all right," she said, smiling.

Joe Lawlor can be reached at 791-6376 or at:


Twitter: @joelawlorph


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Additional Photos

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Tim Fuller, a health promotion specialist, demonstrates proper food chopping techniques at McAuley Residence.


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