Gavin Foundation helps those in recovery find a haven

By Jackie Gentile
Special to the BIR

It can be difficult for those recovering from alcohol or drug abuse to find a place that not only welcomes them, but also helps them navigate their return to their community and their families. The Gavin Foundation in South Boston does just that and has recently expanded to do even more.

Its new Recovery Center officially opened its doors early last month, then hosted an open house last week thatdrew more than 200 people. Since the expiration of a federal grant for the organization’s YARD program, the Center has been a substantial replacement, modeled after its predecessor’s “best practices” and other Massachusetts recovery centers.

Last Monday, during normal business hours (9 a.m. to 10 p.m.), 66 people visited the Center for participant-driven activities.
“I think it speaks volumes to the need,” said John McGahan, president and CEO of the Gavin Foundation. “I think it really speaks volumes for the word circulating amongst the recovery community that it’s a good place to go.”

In 1962, former parole officer James F. Gavin founded the organization, then known as the Arch Foundation, to provide a safe haven for men who had been incarcerated for crimes related to substance use. The space allowed them to regroup, rejuvenate, and eventually return to their community. Gavin House was the program’s first project – a residential rehabilitation program for adult men getting back on their feet. In the mid-1990s, the Gavin Foundation was formed and created the Total Immersion Program (TIP) to offer an alternative to incarceration. TIP started as a collaboration with the South Boston District Court in 1996 and has since branched out to district courts in Dorchester, Somerville, Quincy, Hingham, and Brighton. It provides a 12-step participation program, anger management, drug screenings, and other services for members aiming to live drug- and alcohol-free.
“I think this is an opportunity. Dorchester has access to this Center. Anybody in the recovery world has access to this Center,” said local advocate Craig Galvin. “That’s going to give us an opportunity to let that grow.”

Members and staff alike hail from Dorchester, South Boston, the South End, and other Boston neighborhoods.

A number of employees are from Dorchester, “which was by design because we really tried, when we hired people, to get people that we felt were going to be energetic,” said McGahan.

The Center operates on a peer-to-peer model, making all of the establishment’s activities purely member-run, not administratively concocted. “So the things that have happened already are things that people that are going there have said, ‘I want to do this. Can we do this?’” said McGahan.

He and his staff provide the space, the materials and the know-how, but it’s ultimately up to the members to make it all happen. The membership is also responsible for officially naming the Center “so it’ll mean something to them. I want them to really feel a connectedness to the program,” McGahan added.

Though other similar centers reported that it took 4-6 months to come up with a name, McGahan anticipates a sense of pride among participants. “I’ve been pretty clear with people that we want the name to be driven from within.”

With activities such as yoga, a women’s group, Alcoholics Anonymous, a meditation group, and the Massachusetts Organization of Addiction Recovery (MOAR) among others, options for those in the recovery community are numerous. What McGahan hopes the Center will become in addition is a resource for affected family members.

“It’s a family disease,” he said. “We want to support not just the individual trying to overcome, but the whole family.”

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