McAuley Residence, a vibrant, growing community

Date: 07/28/2021

If there is a secret recipe for helping mothers overcome substance use disorder and move forward confidently on a path towards success, the McAuley Residence may have it. The McAuley Residence in Portland has been providing mothers struggling with substance use disorder and their children with housing and support since 1988. In 2020, a second residence was established in Bangor, coincidently at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Both homes have had an extraordinary track record for getting families directed towards an optimistic and bright future.

Currently, the Portland McAuley Residence is housing 15 families, and the Bangor residence has capacity for ten families. Melissa Skahan, vice president, Mission Integration, Northern Light Mercy Hospital, shares that five mothers are entering higher education. Many others are leaving the residence on track towards a successful career. "When basic needs are met," she comments, "families can fully engage in treatment and services. We provide capacity building to promote core life skills to cope with the challenges that life brings. It's absolutely rewarding when that moment occurs when women start seeing potential for themselves and their families and the ability to become a vibrant part of the community. They can't do that if they're struggling to meet basic needs."

The McAuley Residence provides a safe, comfortable home, access to nutritious food, and multiple evidence-based inventions for both mother and children. Women commit to actively engage in their individualized program, which is designed to promote positive, lasting changes to break the cycle of unhealthy dependencies and encourage healthy independence. Melissa adds, "We have a holistic approach covering all aspects of recovery, including spirituality, parenting, physical and emotional wellness, career and education, financial responsibility, and recreation. This is done through professional staff who provide comprehensive individual coaching, psycho-educational and therapeutic groups, and community meetings."

While the Bangor Residence is a little more than a year old, both McAuley Residences already have expansion plans. For Bangor, Melissa shared that the residence has requested earmark funding from Senators Angus King and Susan Collins to convert an existing Northern Light Health building into a learning lab for families and a Head Start program for children. Community Housing of Maine has also purchased an additional house for a second residence on Ohio Street. In Portland, once all Northern Light Mercy Hospital services transition to the Fore River campus, the State Street campus will be transitioned into housing with ten additional apartments, all with two to three bedrooms. "The space within the State Street building will allow larger families to stabilize in a more spacious environment than what we can offer at our current residence in Portland," explains Melissa.

The McAuley Residence's programming is well aligned with the state's MaineMOM (Maine Maternal Opioid Model), which aims to improve care for pregnant and postpartum people with opioid use disorder and their infants by integrating maternal and substance use treatment services. Melissa also commented that the state remains committed to making sure the McAuley Residences are set up for future success. The passing of LD 1771, An Act to Stabilize Families in 2018, helped fund the Bangor residence's initial years. Melissa and Northern Light Health plan to stay in close collaboration to meet and exceed the desired outcomes to benefit all Maine mothers who need support for substance use disorder and their families in need.

"There is something magical about seeing a young woman, who came into our program hopeless and in fear, walk out of our residence confident, full of life, and ready to take on the world with her newfound skills. It fills you with hope. So, yes, I guess you could call what we do here a recipe for success," smiles Melissa.

Want to learn more? Please view our video about the McAuley Residences in Portland and Bangor.