Anne Arundel Medical Center had an idea for spreading the word about its new drug and alcohol treatment facility for adolescents. Why not show off the place to local teen-agers?
So Saturday, about a dozen students -- mostly leaders in anti-drug and alcohol groups -- gave the Pathways Chemical Dependency Program the once-over with lunch and a tour.
To sweeten the pot, program administrators even managed to have actress Cathy Lee Crosby on hand to sign brochures and speak with students about her volunteer work fighting substance abuse.
The students said they were impressed with what they saw at the 31,000 square-foot, 40-bed facility off Riva Road in Annapolis.
"I think it's good that we came and could see how nice it is," said Suzanne Sullivan, a 17-year-old from Severna Park High School. "Through peer helping [programs], we can explain it to students and recommend it, since we know something about it now."
Most of the students said drinking remains a much larger problem at their schools than drug use.
"There's a lot of drinking at parties. A lot of kids think they can't go to a party without drinking," said Gabrielle Cormier, a 17-year-old from Severna Park High.
"And a lot of students don't think they have a problem. I think it's hard for most to say they need help, so you've got to make it easy. If it's a real hassle to get treatment, they won't go. It will really help having this right here."
The lunch was one in a series of events the hospital has scheduled to celebrate the opening of Pathways, a joint project among AAMC, the state and Anne Arundel County.
Pathways is the first in-patient drug and alcohol dependency program in the county specifically for adolescents and young adults, said Executive Director David Woodward. And it offers the advantage of allowing parents to be closely involved with the treatment of their children because of its location, he added.
"When they're finished here, they have to go back home to live," said Mr. Woodward. "It's important to have the family involved. Sometimes there's a parent with a drug or alcohol problem or some other kind of problem. . . . We'll focus on problem solving and conflict resolution."
In the past, Anne Arundel youths with serious drug or alcohol problems have had to go to Baltimore, Rockville, Ellicott City or further for treatment. "There is a real need for beds in this area," he said.
Rooms at the new building, decorated in pink and teal, look like upscale college dormitory rooms. Eight beds in single rooms make up the admitting area, where patients are evaluated during their first days in the program. The remaining 32 beds are in double rooms for in-patient treatment, lasting up to 45 days.
Mr. Woodward said the program will be flexible about the length of stay for each patient, basing it on individual needs. Some youths will not be admitted for in-patient treatment at all, if doctors decide that out-patient treatment can be as effective.
The program, which will have a staff of about 60 and cost about $320 a day for in-patient treatment. Mr. Woodward said he expects most patients will be referred from county agencies, such as the health department, or by school guidance counselors, judges or private physicians.