A drug rehabilitation program in Frederick County for women could become a reality this year, thanks to the dedication and vision of three local women.
With a combined 30 years of experience working on mental health and substance abuse disorders between the women, the coming program is designed to fill a growing need in the area, said Darian Harwood, one of the women behind The Orenda Center of Wellness.
“There are a lot of places for exclusively men to go,” Harwood said. “And we just said, ‘Why isn’t there one for women?’”
Nicole Tabbachino, Kelsea Kephart and Harwood — all of whom are 28 years old and work at Excel Youth — are creating the new center. The program will provide residential substance abuse disorder treatment for around 30 women, along with outpatient services for women and men.
The group is in the final stages of securing a location for the center, basing their decision on the results of a feasibility study. The two possible locations are in Frederick and Thurmont. Purchasing the building is the largest cost to the program and is made possible by a private investor, Kephart said.
In 2018, Frederick County law enforcement responded to fewer opioid overdoses, but there were more confirmed deaths — 52, with several cases still pending — than in 2017. Addressing substance abuse disorder is one of the county’s health priorities for the next three years.
Tabbachino, with experience as a social worker, said she is working with a low-income family seeking rehabilitation services.
“I’ve been seeing the obstacles that they have had with substance abuse and securing the necessary support,” she said. “The obstacles they were experiencing were so extreme.”
The three women forming The Orenda Center said few substance abuse disorder programs accept Medicaid, and the few that do have a long waitlist.
The high cost of treatment at other locations can be a barrier for low-income people. Relying on a waiting list to get to treatment can mean death for some people, Harwood said.
“When someone is dealing with substance abuse and they’re in crisis, a waitlist is not going to do it,” she said.
“There’s not a lot of places that accept medical assistance and provide services for people with Medicaid,” Kephart said. “When you have commercial insurance, you have the ability to go anywhere across the country.”
The group has been hiring therapists and other workers for the center, Harwood said. They have also been meeting with other program directors and therapists to build their rehabilitation program.
Learning the business side of a rehabilitation program will be as important in keeping the center running as the services side, Tabbachino said.
There will be obstacles for the new center, Harwood said. Not every participant in a rehabilitation program is successful.
“That’s heartbreaking for us,” Harwood said, but she added that the group’s current work experience has prepared them for future difficulties.
The group is in the accreditation and licensing phase for the program, Kephart said. They expect to open their program this summer.