House on the hill offers hope of new beginnings

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:50

    LAFAYETTE-"Each day a new beginning" is the motto of Sunrise House, a 22-acre facility for the treatment of substance abuse set high atop a hill overlooking the tranquil beauty of Sussex County. Department of Human Services Commissioner James M. Davy visited the center to meet with staff and patients involved with the "Mother and Me" program initiated last May. As he toured the facility and chatted with the mothers in the program, he noted that the program is "changing peoples' lives for the better." Sunrise House recently received $690,000 in funding from Department of Human Services Division of Addiction Services for the "Mother and Me" treatment program. It can serve up to ten mothers and 20 children at one time. The program is restricted to pre- and post-partum women who have been identified as being addicted to, or at high risk of relapse involving drug and alcohol. The New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services reports that 33 percent of child abuse and neglect cases involve at least one or both caregivers with a known substance abuse problem. Further almost two children per 100,000 die from abuse and neglect. The "Mother and Me" program will focus on the treatment of chemical dependency and the rehabilitation of mothers and children at high risk of neglect and abuse. The mothers are offered and encouraged to participate in adult basic education and GED classes, vocational training, and certificate programs. At higher levels, there is a cooperative agreement between the Private Industry Council and Sussex County Community College to facilitate their taking college level courses. A precept of the program is that "learning self-discipline, self-respect, cooperation, and consideration of others is essential for recovery." "Mother and Me" begins with a 28-day treatment program. The women must commit to at least a six-month stay and then are offered the opportunity to move to a halfway house allowing for 18 months of "seamless" structured assistance. They are, according to Warrie Howell, chief development officer, women who are "dedicated to their sobriety and will overcome whatever their addiction is." She added, "They will be good role models for their children and learn skills to put them on the right path in a bonding relationship between mother and child. This is where they are able to have that opportunity." Howell is visiting companies seeking corporate sponsorship. Chief Executive Officer Philip Horowitz said that the facility has support from the county freeholders and other local and state governments. Valerie Foster, clinical director of adult inpatients, who conducted the tour, is deeply committed to the program. "The children are our future," she said. "We have the opportunity to stop the cycle of neglect and do something for the children." Foster spoke with pride of the gains former patients have made in society. On a visit to a local McDonald's, she was greeted by a woman who now is managing the restaurant. Another is employed as a bank teller in the area. Speaking to the first eight mothers participating in the program, Davy was told by one of the participants that they must take care of themselves before they can take care of their children properly. Another mother expressed hope because she sees a different picture with a better future. A mother of two is looking forward to being reunited with her children while she awaits the birth of the new baby. As motivation to change her own fate, yet another mother spoke of losing members of her family to drug addiction. A final comment from a young mother was that this is her chance "to get a life back, and I want it."