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Howard County seeks grant for halfway house


The Howard County Health Department is seeking a state grant for a halfway house that would help women of child-bearing age who are substance abusers and their children who suffer from neglect or abuse.

If funded, the program would be the first of its type in the state and could be operating by June, officials said.

"We hope to include a focus on families where children are abused or neglected," said Dr. Joyce Boyd, county health officer. The intent is a program where "the whole family can get everything they need to be a whole, healthy family."

The program would be open to women from throughout the Baltimore metropolitan area who have drug and alcohol problems and who are pregnant or have children.

It would include a halfway house in a Howard County location still to be determined, where the women would receive help from mental health and addiction professionals and learn parenting skills.

And while its focus would be on women and children, the program also would work with the men who are involved with those women and children, county health officials said.

Men would receive treatment either in their own homes, in a separate halfway house, or on an outpatient basis from the county health department or a private agency.

Whatever the treatment needs are, the objective is to have a functional family and have them contributing to society," said Del. Virginia M. Thomas, a Democrat from District 13A who is helping to organize the program.

County health officials say they plan to submit their grant proposal to the state Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration by the end of February. The program would involve federal, state and county agencies.

"We're trying to cut a new path," said Rick Sampson, director of the state Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration. "My objective is to create a program, test it out, and develop a model for the state."

The program would be financed by a portion of a $22 million federal substance abuse prevention and treatment block grant, through the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Officials preparing the local grant proposal have not specified an amount and say they do not know how much such a program would cost or how many people would participate.

But Dr. Boyd said state regulations allow a maximum of 15 people in a halfway house.

Advocates of the program say existing social service agencies don't meet families' needs.

In Howard County, the health department currently offers treatment for addictions, mental health services, and maternity and family planning programs.

But Mr. Sampson said many women who are substance abusers have practical problems in seeking treatment because they have children to care for.

"Our initiative is to remove that barrier," Mr. Sampson said. "The idea is to work with the entire family system."

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