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The Aegis
Harford County

Ashley Addiction Treatment celebrates 40 years of service as it receives surge of federal funding

Ashley Addiction Treatment Center, a provider of inpatient and outpatient treatment and recovery support services, celebrated 40 years of service Tuesday.

To honor the milestone, Harford County Executive Bob Cassilly and Sen. Chris Van Hollen joined local leaders, program alumni and staff Tuesday afternoon at the center’s Havre de Grace campus. During the celebration, Van Hollen emphasized the surge of federal funding he recently secured for the center, while Cassilly presented the center with a county proclamation.

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“Forty years ago, Mae and Father Martin founded Ashley to improve how addiction is treated, and over the last decades, they have empowered individuals struggling with substance use disorder and given them and their families hope,” Van Hollen said in a news release.

In December 2022, it was announced that Van Hollen and U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger secured $420,000 in the federal omnibus bill for Ashley. The center plans to use the funds to educate Harford County High School students about substance misuse.

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“I’m honored to recognize the tens of thousands of lives they’ve helped save and rebuild while also delivering a direct federal investment to bolster their student addiction prevention programs,” Van Hollen said in the release. “With these funds, Ashley can help more young Marylanders steer clear of addiction and towards a bright and healthy future.”

This funding is part of a state and national initiative to enhance preventive and treatment for addiction, Van Hollen said.

“One of the things that has united Senate members across party lines has been working to make sure we provide support for people who suffer from substance use disorders both on the treatment and prevention side,” he said. “The pandemic also brought an increase of people getting addicted. People were feeling isolated in so many cases.”

This partnership with the state builds upon previous Ashley Addiction Treatment efforts in advancing scientific research to identify and implement new and more effective forms of treatment for Maryland residents suffering from opioid and other substance addictions, Van Hollen said.

Ashley’s history dates to 1964 before its founding, when Joseph C. Martin and Lora “Mae” Abraham met during one of Martin’s internationally-recognized “Chalk Talks” about addiction and wellness. After completing treatment for alcoholism, Martin traveled the world spreading the message that addiction is a disease.

“Father Martin did something extremely powerful for Mae — he removed the stigma and shame from alcoholism, which ultimately ignited the vision for Ashley, a legacy that would last well beyond both of their lives,” Alex Denstman, co-CEO and president of Ashley, said in a news release. “I was just 18 years old when I first came to Ashley for treatment. As someone in long-term recovery, I attribute much of what my life is today to our founders and that drives me to help others achieve the same.”

After Abraham heard Martin’s ideology at a meeting in Baltimore in August 1964, she developed a friendship with Martin by January 1965. They went on to speak at conferences until they developed a plan to open a treatment center named “Ashley: The Possible Dream” in 1976. For the next seven years, they were looking for for funds and donors, as well as searching for the ideal location.

By 1983, they had raised funding and completed renovation. They opened the center under the name Father Martin’s Ashley with five patients and six staff members. It was credited as the first treatment center in the world to develop a specialized curriculum for relapse patients, according to a news release.

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“We were like the Keystone Cops running everywhere, saying did we do this or did we do that, until the first patient walked through the door, and father gave his signature line, ‘Welcome to Ashley,’” Micki Thomas, sister of the late co-founder Mae Abraham and former clinical director, recalled about the start of the center.

Now, Ashley employs 320 staff members throughout its six locations, and has served more than 60,000 patients and 110,000 families since the center’s inception in 1983, the release said.

“Finding treatment for myself at Ashley has impacted dozens on dozens of people, so if you multiply that by 55,00 people, you can see Ashley has had an great impact,” said Bea Maltazsta, 2012 alumni. “I think that our 40-year history proves that we deserve the support, and the support will help the community.”

“I would like you to think of the magnificent place that you have to work in,” Thomas said. “The offices are tastefully done. Everything is so together here and works like a well-oiled machine.”

Ashley has awarded more than $65 million in scholarships to Marylanders to assist patient recovery and, currently, the center offers a Family Wellness Program & Children’s Program that focuses on helping families break the cycle of addiction, the release said.

Ashley has awarded $10.8 million in financial aid to Marylanders and $3.4 million in financial aid to Harford County residents since July 1, 2017, Lindsey McFarland, Ashley Addiction spokesperson said.

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Along with the family program, the center offers a men’s and women’s extended program that focuses on treatment at a private, Ashley-owned residence. The men’s extended program consists of 60 days of treatment and focuses on early recovery for emerging adult men; the women’s extended program consists of 90 days of treatment after successful completion of a residential treatment program.

With this funding, the center is working with Harford County Public Schools to find prevention programs suited for kids and to support the teachers, said Laura Dahl, director of family service at the center. The center is looking into evidence-based methods for prevention that work, such as the Botvin LifeSkills Training Program, Dahl said. Botvin is a long-standing program that gives the best practices for the general population, she said.


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