ROCHESTER — In the past, there was no way a woman in a wheelchair would have been able to receive drug or alcohol treatment from the residential treatment facility Liberty Manor, which is operated by Catholic Family Center.
Liberty Manor’s previous home — it leased the former convent of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church — strained to house both a residence and treatment facility under one roof. It also featured bunk beds only, and it did not have an elevator to its second-floor living areas.
At Liberty Manor’s new home on St. Paul Street, the bunk beds are gone, there is an elevator, and the cramped quarters have been replaced by wide hallways and small but efficient bedrooms for up to 17 women and three preschoolers. The new facility was built with $1.8 million in state funds from the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. Staff and residents moved in at the end of October, and the building was dedicated in May.
The Our Lady of Perpetual Help convent did not stay vacant for long; Bethany House, a Catholic Worker home for homeless women and children, moved in during May.
The new Liberty Manor facility features a dining room, laundry room, meeting rooms and offices for therapy, a recreation room and a community room.
The space also has room for children accompanying their mothers through treatment. There is a children’s playroom furnished by donations from Pittsford’s Church of the Transfiguration, separate family bathroom facilities, and a fenced back yard and deck.
The need to offer rehabilitation options for women with children and pregnant women inspired Liberty Manor, which opened in 1987, said Betty Mandly, director of CFC’s residential programs.
Mandly credited Carolyn Portanova, CFC’s president and CEO, with realizing that some women were hesitant to enter traditional rehabilitation because they would be separated from their children. At the time, a program in New York City was the only one in the state to welcome women with children.
Liberty Manor also pioneered an intensive, six- to nine-month treatment program that was much shorter than most programs of the day. Mandly said the shorter stay has helped to foster a sense of independence in those going through the program and has been successfully used in subsequent CFC residential treatment programs as well: Rochester’s Freedom House, which serves 30 men, and Wayne County’s Hannick Hall, which serves 20 women and seven preschool-aged children.
More than 1,300 women have spent time in Liberty Manor’s program. During the day, while women go through rehabilitation, the children go to child care.
"The focus on children is often very high for the women," Mandly said. "You are going to have to figure out how to do recovery and be a parent. This is a good place to practice this."
There are many reasons women give for why they don’t want to try drug treatment at Liberty Manor, said Emily Price, intake coordinator and case manager.
Oftentimes women focus on the things they would have to give up if they seek drug treatment: control over their lives, the ability to make their own decisions and the autonomy to do such mundane things as using the phone without asking permission.
Most of all, the women also hesitate to give up drug or alcohol dependency.
"I tell them the way they have been doing things hasn’t been working, so what’s the harm in trying another way," Price said. "Nothing that happens here is going to hurt them."
Despite Price’s best efforts, some women opt for jail rather than accept the opportunity to get clean. For those who decide to give recovery a try, the benefits can be life changing for them and for their families, she said.
"Sometimes coming to Liberty Manor has actually saved their lives," Price remarked. "That’s a benefit for me, seeing that."