While touted as meeting a community need, and the first partnership of its kind in the country, the YMCA’s program dealing with substance abuse recovery has troubled some members of the Kent County Y – to the point where they have dropped their membership.
In partnership with the Providence Center, an Anchor Recovery Community Center was opened at a house that the Y owns on Centerville Road. The house had been used for administrative offices until renovations and an expansion of its building were completed.
Under the program, when a “Y navigator” determines those individuals undergoing recovery are ready, they can become members of the Y and gain access to the range of health and fitness programs available. According to Paula Jacobson, director of the Kent Y, five or six from the Anchor program undergo counseling in a session. About 25 are enrolled in the program. Anchor’s primary center, which opened in 2010, is in Pawtucket. The Centerville Road house is listed as Anchor II.
James Berson, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Providence, described Anchor II yesterday as a “pilot program” and a “model” that is “very different” from the Anchor I program in Pawtucket.
“We want to see how it works for people in Warwick and surrounding communities,” he said.
However, the melding of the two programs, which some members say they had no knowledge of, flared last week after Anchor posted a picture on its website showing some in the program seated in the Champlin building on the Y campus. Behind them were paintings and drawings done by the children of Y members.
“This is like our sacred place to go,” Tina Fontaine said of the Champlin building that houses the Y’s Wise Owl programs for kids.
The mother of children in the program, Fontaine said, “I don’t know why the Y should think this is a good partnership when they have so much going on with kids and family.”
The picture has since been removed from the website.
Questions as to whether convicted felons were enrolled in the Anchor program and an incident where one of the program attendees was asked to leave the Y premises fueled fears that child safety could be compromised. Rumors circulated. In response, the Y conducted a series of general membership meetings last week to address concerns and outline the program.
“There was a lot of misinformation,” said Jacobson.
She said a member of the program was asked to leave, after he continually used abusive language. She said that background checks are performed for the program. She also said no pictures of Y children have been posted on the Providence Center website and people in the program are not living in the Centerville Road house.
“No one is saying we don’t want to support those who are recovering,” said member Ryan O’Grady. However, he said the Y could have done a better job of informing its members.
He said he had heard the Y was running a halfway house and giving tenants access to Y facilities. “And they expect us to just send our children there and just trust them?”
Jacobson said members were informed of the program through the Y’s “constant contact” digital newsletter on Feb. 14. There were also news releases about the program and an “open house” to talk about the Y’s collaboration with the Providence Center.
She said the Y’s role is to meet the physical fitness needs of program participants. She said clinical support is provided through a recovery coach.
She said the Y aims to maintain an environment that is “as safe and secure as we can.”
Nonetheless, some members were so troubled that they dropped their membership. Jacobson said two or three families have left.
According to the Anchor website:
“The Anchor is also engaged in community building and supporting development of a culture of recovery in Rhode Island … Our culture of recovery is based on abstinence, and the fact that people can live happy, healthy and fulfilling lives without using drugs or alcohol. Our community center has become the hub of a community of recovery in Rhode Island.
“Our emphasis isn’t just on community building, but strengthening the bonds between family members that have been weakened by years of drug and alcohol use. All of our events are family-friendly, and most feature several children’s activities.”