Wamesit Lanes Person Of The Week: Mary-Ellen Cooper
Jul 25, 2016 05:53AM
By Bill Gilman
Mary-Ellen Cooper is honored as the Wamesit Lanes Person of the Week.
Opiate addiction is an epidemic impacting tens of thousands of Massachusetts families every year.
It's a disease that can destroy lives and rip relationships apart.
It's a disease that has struck at the heart of Mary-Ellen Cooper's family, prompting her and her sister to take action.
Cooper and Patty-Jo Hanley (nee Trainor) are the founders of Into Action Recovery, a Tewksbury-based 12-step program aiming to help recovering addicts learn to live a sober life and become healthy, productive members of society.
If they can gain the funding needed, Into Action Recovery is hoping to purchase a home in Tewksbury that will function as its headquarters, as well as a "sober house" for up to 16 recovering addicts.
The fundraising goal to get the project off the ground is $450,000. This would pay for the building, furnishings, insurance and staffing. The group has an ally on Beacon Hill in state Rep. Jim Miceli, who has received a commitment of $200,000 in funding for the project from state lawmakers. Other money is being raised through fundraising events and a Go Fund Me page for donations.
"As soon as we get the funding, we're going to go for a mortgage," said Cooper. "We're working closely with Enterprise Bank."
While they don't yet have a specific property in mind, Cooper said the house would be located in Tewksbury.
Cooper and Hanley, who were born and raised in Tewksbury, both work for Tewksbury State Hospital. Cooper as an LPN and Hanley in PR and communications. But it is not their professional background that has made opiate addiction such a very personal issue for Hanley and Cooper. Two of Hanley's children are addicts. Her oldest, David, was in and out of detox and treatment facilities several times before sobriety took hold.
"He was at the Plymouth House in Plymouth, NH and then a 12-step facility called No. 16 in Wakefield," said Cooper. "He has been in recovery for five years now."
David Hanley now works as a counselor and mentor for recovering addicts at a facility in Wilmington. His mother and aunt have asked him to come on board as the director of the Into Action Recovery House in Tewksbury, once the facility is ready to take on clients.
While more is being done on the state and local level in the battle against opiate addiction, there is still a significant shortage of beds at recovery facilities. Cooper said people have already started calling and asking if she has beds free ... and they don't even have a building.
According to Cooper, the recovery process often takes place in multiple stages. After a person detoxes, they can be sent to a short-term facility such as Plymouth House, which offers a 28-day 12-step program. From there, the best course of action is a long-term 12-step program. Into Action will be such a long-term facility.
"A client might be there for six months, or a year, or two years. However long it takes, as long as they are living by the rules," said Cooper. "The facility will be staffed 24 hours a day. We will run a tight ship."
Into Action, a registered 501C3, has a board of directors to oversee operation. Each board member, with the exception of Hanley (Lowell) is a Tewksbury resident.
According to Cooper, 12-step, live-in facilities are rarely covered by insurance and many families can't afford the cost associated with long-term care. As a non-profit, Into Action Recovery will aim to keep "tuition" as affordable as possible for their clients and their families.
There is still a long way to go before Into Action Recovery is able to take on its first client. But all Cooper has to do is take a look at the life being led by her nephew David to know the hard work is well worth it.
"David is now married, with two young children and they're looking to buy a house," said the proud aunt.
Into Action Recovery's next major fundraiser will be a road race (or walk) on Sept. 28, starting and finishing at Tewksbury High School on Pleasant Street. Click here for more information.
Click here to donate to the Into Action Recovery Go Fund Me Page.
For being named Wamesit Lanes Person of the Week, Mary-Ellen Cooper has received a gift card from Wamesit Lanes Family Entertainment Center.
Do you know a friend, neighbor or family member who deserves a pat on the back for something cool they've done? Nominate them for Person of the Week by emailing their name, along with the reason they should be honored, to Bill@yourtewksburytoday.com.
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