Strawberry Mansion: Drug and Alcohol Treatment Facility Helps Build Better Community
Rochelle Amos sat nervously at a desk in a conference room at Stop and Surrender Inc., a substance abuse treatment provider located at 2522 W. Huntingdon St. In a shaky voice, she talked about what she does for the organization.
“I’m the administrative coordinator,” Amos said. “I basically am responsible for all data, all paperwork, all documentation and I’m also a women’s coordinator on the recovery side.”
However, she wasn’t always in that position.
“I’m a recovering addict myself,” Amos said.
Amos had a 24-year addiction to cocaine and heroin. She came to Stop and Surrender in 2003 from Baltimore and got clean. Then, she was given the opportunity to work in the office. After her one-year anniversary, Amos relapsed and had to temporarily take a break from her duties. She returned to work in 2012 and has been clean for the past six years.
“I feel like Stop and Surrender is a God-send,” Amos said. “Without places like this a lot of people would be lost.”
Stop and Surrender has been helping people like Amos since 1992. They offer a one-year program for adults seeking help with addiction. Currently, the facility is servicing approximately 108 people.
“In terms of the disease of addiction there is no cure,” George Thomas III, director of residential services, said. “What we teach our participants is continued maintenance of their disease. Maintenance consists of continued learning. Learning how to care for themselves, learning how to ID what triggers their disease, learning how to put supports in place that will help them work through any triggers that may come through any difficult emotions.”
The organization consists of two components: the residential side and the clinical side. The residential side provides safe, drug free housing to participants who are homeless or in need of residential services because of environmental factors, such as drug temptation. The clinical side is the state licensed substance abuse intensive outpatient treatment program. Six Masters level therapists provide onsite recovery counseling for substance abuse disorders.
“First we have to deal with the stigma,” said therapist Ronald Crawford. “A lot of times people in this community, people of color, they’re resistant to counseling of any kind and it’s because of the stigma of you being weak if you need counseling. So until you address that resistance, nothing is possible.”
In addition to one-on-one sessions with therapists, Stop and Surrender provides group therapy and group counseling. Other services include anger management, parenting classes, sexual health education groups, psychoeducational groups and seminars, and women’s groups to deal with trauma participants have experienced before or during their addiction.
The services at Stop and Surrender are covered by the participant’s insurance or Medicaid, but that’s not always the case. Some individuals are underinsured or uninsured. However, that doesn’t prevent Stop and Surrender from helping them.
“They need to find a place that is safe and is willing to help them at whatever point that they are in their life,” Thomas said. “Stop and Surrender is one of those places that will take an individual that has absolutely nothing and we will provide them the services until they are able to get the insurance.”
Sometimes the organization’s generosity is taken for granted. Participants will receive services then leave before it’s time to pay. Stop and Surrender does receive funding from Medicaid and Community Behavioral Health (CBH), but it’s not nearly enough to cover the expenses of the services they provide.
The lack of housing in North Philadelphia is also an issue for the residential side of the organization. Due to gentrification and the destruction of old buildings in the city, Stop and Surrender does its best to find apartments, houses, and even rooms that may be available.
Another challenge is the size of the facility. The building was made to hold only about 40 people; therefore, it’s hard to hold large group meetings. Some participants are attending group meetings at night when they could have come earlier in the day if there was more space.
Despite the challenges and limitations, Stop and Surrender builds a better community by helping its participants become productive members of society. 55 to 60 percent of their participants stay clean for a year, compared to the national average of 35 percent.
“It’s emotional because you know what [the participants are] going through and they don’t have to go through it,” said board member Melvin Stokes.
Stokes has been in recovery since 1985 and loves being able to serve as a role model for people trying to get clean.
“I am a success,” Stokes said. “I want to motivate other people, I want to make them jealous, I want to make them envious that they can have what I got.”
Thomas pointed out that they stress to the participants the importance of giving back to their community.
“What we teach our participants here at Stop and Surrender is when they’re in the midst of their active addiction, a lot of times they’re taking away from their community,” Thomas said. “You need to give back in some form of community service and a lot of times the individuals that have completed the program do come back.”
For Amos, she came back to work for the organization and help support other women facing addiction.
“Mostly, the women come to me to get support if they’re going through any issues, and I give them some of my experiences and strengths and hopes,” Amos said. “I leave that with them so that they can maybe go through their own issues bouncing off what I told them.”
Amos is thankful that Stop and Surrender has given her the opportunity to give back and credits them for the person she is today.
“I’m the woman God intended me to be,” Amos said. “I wouldn’t take anything away from this place. It’s wonderful.”
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– Text, video and images by Noe Garcia and Avory Brookins.