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W House has new home

November 29, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

The new W House of Hagerstown may be only a few blocks from its previous site but in terms of space, improved services and homey atmosphere, they are miles apart.

Now housed at 519 N. Locust St., the halfway house for women battling addictions has nine big bedrooms, a community room, a reception area, separate offices, two rooms for the addictions counselors, a computer lab, a laundry room, a large kitchen and pantry, and a dining room with a seating capacity for 24.

"At our old location at 37 E. Antietam St., there were just four bedrooms, no community room, a cramped kitchen and a dining room that didn't seat everyone," W House Executive Director Christina Trenton said.

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The new building has four transitional apartments for women who are approaching the end of their treatment program, which usually is about six months, Trenton said.

"We are able to give them a lot of tools when they leave here," she said. Along with the additional space, the W House has been able to establish a new aftercare component, something Trenton has been wanting since she came in 1997.

That would allow some W House former residents to stop in and access the computers to help them find work, a place to live, etc. And residents always would know they could come in for help with a crisis even after leaving W House, Trenton said.

"Often they come here in financial disarray, experiencing a lot of stress dealing with the high cost of rent in Hagerstown," Trenton said. "We want to be here for them."

Trenton hopes that rather than selling the old building, it can be retained so that some supportive, transitional services can be set up there.

"It could be a step-down phase for our women. They leave here and go there before going back into the community," Trenton said.

According to 2002 figures compiled by the Center for Substance Abuse Research at the University of Maryland, it is estimated that 8 percent - or 285,994 - of Maryland adults require substance abuse treatment.

Alcohol and drug abuse costs Maryland an estimated $5.6 billion each year, according to the center's figures.

Trenton said the study also shows that the annual cost for one person in a halfway house treatment setting is estimated at $7,421. The comparative cost for that one person housed in a Maryland prison is $39,600 a year while the cost for the untreated addict is $43,300 because of associated crime and criminal justice expenses, the center's figures show.

"The difference is incredible," she said.

W House has 10 women in its program and two new clients are expected to arrive soon, Trenton said.

"We are taking things slow so we don't overwhelm the staff."

Trenton credits her dedicated staff and board of directors for their efforts to make W House an successful option for women with addictions.

"We don't have a high readmission rate here," she said.

One reason for that is that women who don't make it at W House don't want to come back to W House.

"We're tough here. There are a lot of rules to follow," Trenton said.

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