People seeking outpatient care for substance abuse addiction will, in the coming months, have the option of Ashley Addiction Treatment’s new outpatient facility in Bel Air, a facility in the same shopping center as the recently opened Klein Family Harford Crisis Center.
The 3,645 square-foot facility, which is scheduled to open to patients this coming winter, was dedicated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday morning. The facility is in the BSC Plaza at 802 Baltimore Pike.
“This is a big day for Ashley, and I hope it’s a big day for those suffering from behavioral health conditions and substance abuse problems,” Jim Denvir, chairman of the Ashley board of directors, said during the ceremony.
Ashley operates its main inpatient treatment facility, founded in 1983 by the Rev. Joseph C. Martin and Mae Ashley Abraham, in Havre de Grace and two outpatient centers in Union Hospital in Elkton and University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air.
The outpatient facility at Upper Chesapeake opened in the summer of 2015 and has since served more than 2,600 patients. Ashley had been invited to move to the new location near the crisis center, giving the organization the opportunity to expand the outpatient services offered.
“We jumped at the chance, because it’s an opportunity for us to grow and offer additional services to our patients,” Jennifer Aguglia, vice president of outpatient services for Ashley, said.
The new space is largely finished, although Ashley must still complete the process of obtaining federal licenses, according to Aguglia.
The outpatient center includes spaces where patients can meet with counselors and medical staff, either on an individual basis or in a group therapy setting. The group therapy rooms include chalkboards, reminiscent of the late the Rev. Martin’s famed “chalk talks” about addiction. A nurse practitioner will be on duty Monday through Friday and a licensed practical nurse Monday through Saturday.
Aguglia said patients can undergo Ashley’s trademark Medication Supported Recovery, through which they receive medications such as buprenorphine and Vivitrol, which block the effects of and reduce cravings for alcohol and opioids, according to Ashley’s website.
There also is space, with a television, where patients can detox under a nurse’s observation.
“We have just a relaxing space for them,” Aguglia said.
She pointed out how the interior has been painted in colors such as yellow to give patients a sense of warmth and blue to give a sense of calm.
The new space will allow Ashley to expand its outpatient offerings in Harford County, such as a partial hospitalization program. Patients who need more intense recovery treatment can spend six hours a day at the center for one to three weeks, or longer if needed, according to Aguglia.
“We’re able to do a lot of case management and therapy,” she said of partial hospitalization.
Ashley will accept Medicaid, commercial insurance or self-payments, she said.
David Nassef, Ashley president and CEO, called the new facility a great example of a public-private partnership for the good of the community, during a ceremony in which he thanked local and state elected officials for their support as well as University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health for allowing the use of their Bel Air hospital premises.
Nassef, who previously served more than 15 years as Ashley’s board chair, recalled when, in February of 2015, Ashley staff told the board that Upper Chesapeake asked the organization to set up a facility for intensive outpatient treatment and to do so by August of that year.
Nassef said that period was around the beginning of the “opiate crisis” that has affected Harford County, as well as Maryland and the rest of the nation.
“Thank God we did get started on doing that [outpatient treatment],” Nassef said, noting how Ashley has treated more than 2,000 people in the outpatient setting over the past four years.
“Just think what we’re going to be able to do, going forward with this facility here,” he said of the new space.
Denvir, the current board chair, said he received inpatient treatment through Ashley about 13 years ago. He later went through two years of outpatient treatment in a Washington, D.C., facility he described as “the darkest, dingiest place,” although he noted the program “did me a lot of good.”
“I would have rather been here,” he said of the new Bel Air facility. “This is just such a beautiful place.”
Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, who has worked to bring multiple community resources together to fight the local opioid crisis since he started his first term in late 2014, presented a proclamation to Ashley officials.
“We are so excited to have Ashley as a partner, right next to our first-of-its kind crisis center in the state of Maryland,” Glassman said.
The crisis center, which provides 24/7 care for people dealing with addiction or mental health issues, opened in June. Glassman noted the crisis center is, itself, a “unique private-public partnership,” as the county government worked with Upper Chesapeake, the county health department, nonprofit organizations and private providers to establish it.
“We are so proud to have Ashley right next door, providing mental health and addiction resources,” the county executive said.
Harford County Circuit Court Judge Kevin J. Mahoney, who presides over the county’s adult drug court, said Ashley has been the “primary” private provider among the many partner organizations that participate in drug court.
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Other partners include Mahoney as the presiding judge, prosecutors, defense attorneys, parole and probation officials, county health officials and representatives of Harford’s Office of Drug Control Policy, Mahoney said.
The drug court process, which Mahoney called a “team, wraparound approach,” involves all members of the team meeting with the judge twice a month to give updates on each participant’s progress. The participants see their healthcare providers, probation agents and everyone else who gives the support needed for recovery throughout the month, Mahoney said.
He said the people who take part in drug court are typically “hard cases,” people with extensive criminal histories, serious substance abuse problems, who need at least intensive outpatient treatment and many times have not succeeded in past treatment efforts.
“Very often, there are co-occurring mental health disorders that are obviously impacting their ability to achieve and maintain sobriety,” he said.
Mahoney stressed that “it is absolutely essential that we have a variety of tools in our toolbox from a treatment perspective.”
“I’ve enjoyed the opportunity of working with Ashley up to this point in our drug court, and I look forward to the continued success that we will have in the drug court in the years to come,” he said.