For 35 years, New Life Addiction Counseling and Mental Health Services has broken barriers.
When Thomas Porter started New Life Addiction Counseling Services in 1984, he came at the issue from a unique perspective. He was celebrating 15 years of sobriety and he knew firsthand the struggles caused by addiction.
He asked his daughter, Beverly Porter Ervin, to join him, and together they opened five Maryland facilities within five years. Today, New Life operates solely in Pasadena, where Beverly continues to carry on her father’s legacy.
“He had 15 years of recovery, and I was very aware of the impact that made on the family,” Beverly said, explaining the valuable opportunity to join her father in starting the centers.
New Life provides outpatient treatment and addiction treatment services (including detox, if needed) for those struggling with substance abuse and drug and alcohol addiction, as well as for those with mental health issues. Sobriety is reached through education, self-awareness, therapy, counseling, and participation in specialized groups. New Life follows the 12-step program made popular by Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.
The group space in Pasadena is warm and inviting for people in recovery, said Jennifer Wheeler, director of community outreach and business development.
“Sometimes they come here and they have self-esteem issues,” Wheeler said. “They have been shunned by their friends. I want them to feel happy, comfortable and accepted. Then they will be more willing to participate in their treatment.”
That comfortable environment grew in 2016 when New Life moved to a bigger space at 4231 Postal Court. People in recovery can be deterred by the idea of hopping from place to place to get the care they need, which is why New Life tries to offer all services in one location.
“Our goal is to remove as many barriers as possible, so they can come here and at the same time see a nurse practitioner and a psychiatrist, for example,” Wheeler said.
Over the last three decades, the number of patients at New Life has hardly changed, but services have. When Tom founded the company, alcoholism was rampant. Cocaine followed, and then pain medication became a primary source of substance misuse in the early 2000s. Now, heroin and fentanyl are the newest enemies in the battle against addiction.
“The face of these addictions has changed,” said Beverly, who noted that 90% of people in her program are addicted to opiates.
Medications have changed, too. Suboxone was developed for opiate detox and stabilization. Vivitrol can be injected to block opioid receptors in the brain.
“They don’t have to think about taking a pill to reduce a craving,” Wheeler said of Vivitrol users. “The pill can be a trigger.”
Technology has helped in the battle against addiction. New Life can utilize Uber to help clients get to and from meetings. Another promising change is that treatment centers and government groups have ramped up marketing efforts to educate the public about addiction and to erase the stigma.
“Right now, we’re at the advent of harm reduction, which is things like the Safe Stations Program, providing Narcan to members of the community, and having the good Samaritan law, which says you can’t be arrested for being on the scene to save a life,” Wheeler said.
People are coming forward to discuss their recovery — a rare occurrence in 1984 when Porter founded New Life.
“Less and less people are anonymous about their addiction,” Wheeler said. “I think social media is their platform, and they wear it not as a badge of honor but as a badge of life, especially the younger people who have no qualms about admitting it openly. It’s like a casual conversation and that’s been good for recovery.”
The staff at New Life hopes that optimism continues as they continue to help people in recovery. That would be the wish of Tom Porter, who was sober for 46 years when he passed away in September 2018. Even though he retired 20 years earlier, he was still involved in the recovery community until 2018.
“We wouldn’t be in business for 35 years if people didn’t need our services,” Wheeler said. “We have always been here and we will continue to do battle on the next addiction that rears its ugly head.”