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New halfway house to serve area women

Phoenix Counseling Services hopes to open a halfway house for women with substance abuse problems at this Lincolnton site.

JENNA-LEY HARRISON
Staff Writer

Phoenix Counseling Center is preparing to open the first halfway house for substance-abusing women in the three-county region it serves. The effort is part of Lincoln County’s expansion of mental-health services.
The home will be located on East McBee Street in Lincolnton. Phoenix currently operates two halfway houses for men, both in Gastonia, in connection with Partners Behavioral Health Management (BHM).
An eight-county merger among local management entities (LME), Gastonia-based Pathways LME, Elkin-based Crossroads Behavioral Healthcare and Hickory’s Mental Health Partners, formed Partners BHM earlier this month.
While Phoenix Counseling will operate the home, Partners BHM will monitor the facility and handle its funds, according to Phoenix’s Regional Director Gayle Mahl.
“Money first goes to Partners BHM and then to Phoenix,” she said.
The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners recommended through a memorandum this past spring that the North Carolina Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control allocate $10,000 towards the startup of a Lincoln County halfway house, Assistant County Manager Martha Lide told the Times-News Tuesday.
The money stems from state bottle tax, she said.
In addition, the Lincoln County ABC store annually distributes 7 percent of its gross receipts to the county, roughly rounding out to $12,000 a year, the memorandum said.
The state requires the funds benefit research, education or treatment of substance abuse or alcoholism.
For the last four years, county officials have allowed the ABC funds to collect. The monies currently total more than $43,000, Lide said.
The halfway house will accommodate eight women, each at $55 a day, Mahl said.
Because the nonprofit organization will still need to come up with $15,000 to $20,000 annually to function, Phoenix officials plan to receive in-kind donations and conduct fundraising.
While there’s no time limit for each person’s stay, individuals will be placed in detox programs and individual counseling, Mahl said. If necessary, they will undergo outpatient services after roughly six, nine or 12 months.
Nonprofit group Surrender House formerly used the building for a similar outreach program but later closed from lack of funding.
Mahl is anxious for the house to open since a lengthy referral list awaits.
“There’s a huge need,” she said.
Officials are waiting on the state to complete final inspections before licensing the facility, and Mahl said she anticipates the halfway house opening by the end of the month.
The county additionally plans to expand other mental health services through Partners BMH.
For more than a year, Lide and Department of Social Services Director Susan McCracken have served on an “unofficial group” of leaders from various county organizations including Pathways, Department of Social Services, Lincoln County Schools and the Magistrate’s Office, to organize and develop the additional services, including the establishment of a women’s halfway house.
“We’re really changing the complexion of mental health,” Lide said.
All additional services have either started in the county or are in the preliminary phase.
Programs will target sexually aggressive youth, the chronically mentally ill and child psychiatrics, the memorandum said.
The county has also established the UMAR Adult Day Activity Center, which opened in 2011 in downtown Lincolnton in partnership with the United Methodist Church.
Due to limited state funding, an ongoing problem, further development of domestic violence services across the county remains questionable at this time, McCracken said.
For more information on the new women’s halfway house, call Phoenix Counseling Center, located at 341 E. Main St., Suite 201 in Lincolnton, at (704) 921-3070.

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