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Ashley founders' presence stays strong

February 4, 2013
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Mae Abraham

In assessing the state of the addiction treatment center she and the iconic Father Joseph C. Martin established 30 years ago, Mae Abraham highlights both change and consistency, without contradiction. She believes the late Father Martin would be immensely proud of where Father Martin’s Ashley is situated today, even as it evolves in ways that never could have been contemplated back in the 1980s.

“All that we wanted to do is treat a few drunks,” Abraham, 85, said in an interview with Addiction Professional last week. She recalls the day Ashley opened in 1983 as Father Martin’s happiest, as he was able to greet the center’s first five patients at the door with his simple assurance, “The nightmare is over.”

The Havre de Grace, Md., center opened a year of anniversary events last month with a Founders’ Day luncheon at which Abraham addressed the staff. She still schedules a monthly visit to the center on a Saturday to tell the Ashley story to current patients, and Ashley leaders say that in the years since Father Martin’s death in 2009 the community has truly come to recognize what made the partnership between Father Martin and Abraham click.

“She was the grand organizer—Mae knew how to get things done,” says Lisa Nickerson Bucklin, Father Martin’s Ashley’s director of marketing and public relations. “Father Martin developed ‘healing with dignity’ and the philosophy of treatment, and Mae was grounded in quality of care.”

Appreciation of history

Father Martin’s Ashley stands relatively unmatched in its appreciation of where it came from and how that influences its operations today. Father Martin’s renowned “Chalk Talk” lectures remain central to the facility’s message of hope to patients. The center’s humble beginnings, spearheaded by a Catholic priest who touted the simplicity and wisdom of the 12 Steps and a woman who had overcome significant stigma to find wellness in a male-dominated recovery community nearly 50 years ago, communicate to the staff that anything is possible.

“We all have obstacles in our daily work, but we always remember that our whole organization was founded around overcoming obstacles,” says Bucklin.

Father Mark Hushen, Ashley’s president and CEO, says the organization thrives on combining the guardianship of its founders’ legacy and the initiation of advancements based on the latest science on addiction and recovery. Efforts such as Ashley’s Pain Recovery Program, launched last year, embody this melding of compassionate care and timely response to current community needs.

“In today’s day and age, for an organization like Ashley to have withstood all of the changes in the industry and still be going strong and continuing the mission handed down by its co-founders is significant,” says Hushen.