Capacity issues force SCADD to make New London house men-only

New London — It’s not how the Southeastern Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence wanted it to play out, but beginning March 1, one of its two halfway houses for women will become men-only.

For various reasons, the agency hasn’t been able to operate with 90 percent or higher capacity at its 1000 Bank St. house, which is a must in these trying financial times.

It’s not that there aren't enough women who qualify for the halfway houses, which Executive Director Jack Malone stressed are by-the-book, unlike some so-called sober homes operating in the region.

While government research suggests men are more likely to use illicit drugs, women are just as likely as men to become addicted. Statewide data for 2016 showed a sharp increase in the number of women dying of drug overdoses — especially young women. And an estimated seven in 10 females in state prisons meet the criteria for drug dependence or abuse.

But sometimes the end of a woman’s prison sentence and the opening of a bed for her don’t align. Other times, she gets an opportunity to reunite with her children, who could be anywhere in the state, and opts not to complete the program.

Because SCADD receives state funding for its facilities, operating with maximum efficiency is essential. So, after much debate, Malone said, SCADD sought and got approval from the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to make the 10 beds on Bank Street for men.

“We do this move reluctantly and with the blessing of the department of mental health,” Malone said. “We’re very much weighing the need for a good, healthy and safe bed for women with the need to operate efficiently in this day and age.”

In a strange twist, it was at Malone’s urging that, back in 1997, SCADD transitioned its 11-bed home at 89 Howard St. from a men’s to a women’s house. After the organization lost the Howard Street property around 2004 — that was thanks to the city’s infamous eminent domain case — it set up shop at 62-64 Coit St., which continues to house women.

The facility at 1000 Bank St. isn’t without its own history. In 1967, as public opinion shifted and alcoholism began to be treated as an illness instead of a crime, 1000 Bank St. became the first freestanding, community-based detoxification program to operate in Connecticut, according to Malone.

Prior to that, Malone said, those struggling with substance abuse either cycled through prison or were kept indefinitely in the state hospital system, where treatment was questionable at best.

Now, more than 50 years later, SCADD offers 186 beds to those in need. In addition to its three halfway houses, the nonprofit runs detoxification, outpatient and medication-assisted treatment programs and operates Lebanon Pines, a 110-bed, long-term facility for men.

As March approaches, Malone said, SCADD is focusing on renovating 1000 Bank St. — its bathroom is getting a facelift, for example — and relocating the women who still are there. For the most part, he said, they’re being transferred to 62-64 Coit St. as beds become available.

On Wednesday, just four women remained at the Bank Street facility.

“We pain over it,” Malone said of the transition, “but we just have to do it.”

l.boyle@theday.com

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