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Opening Of Into Action Recovery Sober House A Major Step In Battle To Save Lives, Families

Oct 02, 2018 06:28PM ● By Bill Gilman

IntoAction Recovery house, 20 Fox Run Drive, Tewksbury

In some ways, that winter afternoon at Dunkin' Donuts seems like a lifetime ago for David Hanley. In other ways, it seems like yesterday.
In early 2015, Hanley, his mother, aunt and others talked, over coffee, about how to "empty the ocean with a teaspoon," as the old expression goes. Actually, the discussion was the opiod epidemic that was raging out of control, destroying lives and families throughout the state, in general, and the Merrimack Valley, specifically.
It was a problem that struck close to home for Hanley and his family. They had grown weary of attending funerals and receiving updates about people they knew who had relapsed or had been hospitalized. They wanted to take action.
"It's just that we had too many people close to us, friends and family members, being lost to the disease," said Hanely. "So a group of us just got together to try and figure out what we could do and this is what we came up with, that this was the missing piece. And we've been working tirelessly ever since.
The group became the non-profit "IntoAction Recovery" and their mission was to tackle that "missing piece," a professionally staffed "sober house" for recovering addicts.
Earlier this year, the group purchased a property at 20 Fox Run Drive, Tewksbury. A little over a week ago, the home welcomed its first resident.
For Hanley, who serves as program director, the opening was bittersweet.
Brothers David and Derek Hanley, sons of Patti-Jo Hanley, had both struggled with drug and alcohol addiction as young men. Both received treatment and support for many years. David was able to work his way to long-term sobriety and got the education and training to be able to help others.
Derek's journey did not have a happy ending. Just 31 years old, he lost his battle to addiction in December 2016. At the time of his death, Derek had been out of his latest stint in rehab but was on a waiting list for a bed in a facility just like the IntoAction Recovery house.
A plaque, in memory of Derek, has been placed above the doorway of the master bedroom of the IntoAction Recovery House. It serves as both a reminder and an inspiration to his brother.
"I came in with a determination and dedication to helping others and giving back, through this line of work," said Hanley. "And then my brother passed, and that determination grew, exponentially. It's such a motivating force behind everything I do and we do on the board.
"I'm close to the other board members. My mother is on the board and my aunt (Mary-Ellen Cooper)," he said. "And a lot of the other board members have lost people close to them, children, friends, loved ones. All our ships are sailing in the same direction."
The living room of the house is dedicated to the memory of State Rep. Jim Miceli, who helped secure state funding that helped IntoAction Recovery purchase the property. That funding was augmented by fundraising events and donations.

Filling a major need

According to Hanley, the IntoAction Recovery house fills a glaring need in the recovery process. The detox process, done in a medical setting, can last from 4 to 16 days, depending on the substance and the condition of the individual.
"After that is kind of an in-between period, a 28-30 day rehab that the person would go through," said Hanley. "What we are, we come in on the back end. We are long-term residential care. We aim to be a highly structured program, drug and alcohol free."
The IntoAction Recovery program is structured for clients recovering from addiction to drugs and alcohol, though Hanley expects addiction to opiates to be a common condition.
Clients who are accepted into the program, move into the house after detox and rehab and incorporate the tools they have learned during the rehab process and integrate back into their lives, using those tools.
IntoAction Recovery is based on a 12-step model. As clients progress and become more independent and their behavior improves, they are rewarded by being able to have their phones, their cars, start going back to work, etc.
"Eventually they have the chance to interact with their families and integrate back into their lives, the way they were," he said.
The recommended stay for a client in this type of program is six months, but Hanley said that is decided on a case-by-case basis.
When IntoAction Recovery first purchased the property at 20 Fox Run Drive, it received some pushback from neighbors on the secluded cul-de-sac. Some were concerned about safety, others about property values and some just wanted to make sure a "sober house" wouldn't disturb the peace and quiet of the neighborhood.
Hanley said he, the board members and staff have worked hard to ease the fears of the residents and that, with a couple of exceptions, the relationship with the neighbors has warmed considerably. 
"We didn't pick Tewksbury by accident," he said. "All the members of the board either grew up here or still live in town. We feel like we are going to be a strong asset and not a problem for the community.
"I think what people need to realize is the problem is already here in the community. We are trying to be part of the solution," he said.

Motivated clients

The IntoAction Recovery house is a "private pay" facility, not covered by insurance. Participation and residency is voluntary. None of the clients is required to be part of the program for any reason. As a result, said Hanley, the program will have clients motivated to continue their recovery.
"The guest we have are going to be at least 30 days sober, they will be outside withdrawal," he said. "And if they become any type of a problem, they will be asked to leave. And that's not just a relapse."
The home at 20 Fox Run Drive is spacious, with several bedrooms for clients, three bathrooms and plenty of living space. Two staff members, the house manager and assistant manager, live on-site. Hanley's office is on the 1st floor.
As the program begins accepting clients, Hanely said the staff, board members and volunteers all share the same goal.
"What it all boils down to is we don't want to see other people go through what we have gone through," he said.
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