July 8, 2004
Frank Scarpati got tired of seeing women go through his Community Bridges detox program two or three times during their pregnancies.
Chris Fickas got tired of seeing the results: Increasing numbers of drug-addicted babies brought to her doorstep at the East Valley Child Crisis Center.
Along the way to marrying their experiences as directors of East Valley agencies into a transitional housing program for substance-abusing homeless mothers and their babies, they married each other.
"We both care about families," said Chris Scarpati. "My work has been with the younger ones. His work has been with a population that people totally ignore. It just kind of fit to pull them together in this special way."
Dozens of people from several agencies have dedicated thousands of hours to bring the Center for Hope just months away from its October opening in Mesa.
The residential program represents a broad collaboration now thriving among the community’s substanceabuse agencies.
The $2.8 million center will serve the entire Valley and will fill a huge hole in the substance-abuse treatment network for drug-addicted mothers and their babies. Maricopa County has room for only 46 women and their children, though none of the programs is in the East Valley.
The goal is to find women in the earliest stages of pregnancy, get them prenatal care, treat their addictions and then help them learn to support themselves and their children.
"We don’t want to wait until this woman has been in the system for five or 10 years and has had five or 10 kids," said Frank Scarpati of the Community Bridges detox program.
The center, adjacent to the Community Bridges detox and outpatient facility at 560 S. Bellview, has room for up to 24 women and 32 children, including eight children up to age 4.
Families will live in one of three eight-room wings, each with its own small kitchen and shared living area. A large front building houses the kitchen and dining hall, child care center, community room, a nurse’s station, staff offices, and smaller meetings rooms for classes and other support services.
Besides medical care, the women will participate in individual and group therapy, parenting and life skills classes, job training and high school equivalency or community college course work. Like all addicts, the women will be at high risk for relapse, but their children will provide added incentive.
The Center for Hope was designed and built with help from several agencies. Federal, state and city development block grants paid for most of the structure, but funding is still needed to complete construction and provide furnishings.
Frank Scarpati hopes the center’s success will help remove the stigma from substance-abusing mothers and create empty cribs in his wife’s child abuse center.
"In many cases, the only way you can help the baby is to help the mother," he said. "It’s really about, ‘How can we help these kids before they end up in the Child Crisis Center?’ This is bigger than the two of us will ever be."
The Center for Hope transitional housing and treatment program for homeless substance-abusing pregnant women and their babies needs donations to complete construction and furnish the facility. To learn more about the Center for Hope or to donate, call Community Bridges at (480) 831-7566. The Center for Hope also is registered at Babies R Us.