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'We are treating this seriously'

After a recent threat by state health officials to shut down a residential treatment program for drug-addicted mothers and their children, OnTrack officials have scrambled to take action, investing $60,000 in repairs.

"We are treating this seriously," said Amanda Lindley Krug, program director for the Mom's Program, also known as the HOME Program, at 3397 Delta Waters Road, Medford. "There is no price tag that can be put on any life."

Krug said rooms in the sprawling building that was formerly a Camp White nursing facility during World War II have been painted, and bedding and furniture have been replaced. The building on Tuesday appeared clean and tidy with a hint of air freshener. A children's play area was spotless.

Krug and other staff said they thought the house was clean and neat when state inspectors visited in January.

"We're not the Hilton, no, we're not Betty Ford," she said. "But your needs are going to be met, your children's needs are going to be met."

The Oregon Health Authority warned OnTrack it may pull its license after investigators found significant health and safety risks, including failure to send two children with serious illnesses to the emergency room. 

The threat to the program was the latest in a series of crises at Southern Oregon's largest addiction treatment provider, including "deplorable conditions" found at OnTrack housing, legal actions alleging abuse toward employees and clients, and departure of its 39-year executive director, Rita Sullivan.

The Mom's Program is a state-licensed facility. Multiple violations there are detailed in a 12-page "Notice of Intent to Revoke Alcohol and Drug Residential Treatment License" letter sent Feb. 24 by OHA to OnTrack board president Jim Maize.

OnTrack has beds for 29 mothers at the facility, but can handle 50 to 60 children, as well.

While Krug disputes some of the conclusions reached by state officials, she said she has accepted their concerns and believes she and her staff have addressed them.

"It's necessary for the state to be hypervigilant," Krug said.

She said health officials didn't understand the mothers of the two ill, lethargic children were waiting for a ride to take them to see a pediatrician.

"Everybody knows if there is a life-threatening emergency to call 911," she said.

OnTrack has attempted to cut down on the number of emergency room visits by sending mothers and their children to La Clinica Birch Grove Health Center.

In some cases, OnTrack clients had used emergency room visits inappropriately as an excuse to meet a boyfriend, Krug said.

An on-site nurse also evaluates the health of moms and children to see what kind of medical care would be appropriate, Krug said. A registered nurse also was hired by OnTrack to address some of the earlier state concerns.

Responding to another state issue, OnTrack employees will receive continuing education on contagious diseases, and clinicians will share patient information during weekly staff meetings.

Krug said a number of factors play into sending a mother to a doctor or hospital, and the on-site nurse helps navigate the health needs to make an appropriate determination.

One mother took her sick child to Valley Immediate Care in Medford recently and had to wait to get her child X-rays.

"After two hours of waiting, she said, 'Screw this, I'm taking her to the doctor tomorrow,' " Krug said.

When Krug finds out a mother refuses to wait for care, she said she will order her back to the doctor immediately.

As to the health and safety issues, Krug said, a professional mold-testing company analyzed the facility and found nothing out of the ordinary.

"All the results showed no toxic mold," she said.

A leaky roof was temporarily repaired, and it will be replaced as soon as the weather gets better, Krug said. No clients are in the bedroom in the area where the leaky roof is located, she said.

OnTrack is working on other residential facilities, painting the interiors, replacing windows and upgrading kitchens and bathrooms.

"To be honest, there was a lot of deferred maintenance, and we're addressing it," said Rick Nagel, interim executive director.

Nagel said OnTrack has taken every step it possibly can to address the concerns raised by the state.

A major problem cited by state health officials throughout OnTrack facilities is lack of treatment plans for clients and documentation of their progress.

Krug acknowledged this was a problem at her facility as well, where staff must deal with one crisis after another as pregnant women or women with children seek refuge while struggling to overcome their addictions.

"I've always been about the client comes first before the paperwork," said Krug, who went through the OnTrack treatment program 13 years ago and has been program manager for more than three years. Krug has gone back to school and has received various certifications for her job.

She said she has taken steps to devise a better system to create individualized treatment plans and to keep better records of clients. An improved electronic record-keeping system is also in place, she said.

Krug said it takes a lot of work to help those with addictions turn their lives around. Mothers at the Delta Waters facility stay for 90 to 120 days before entering transitional housing. One of out 10 women who've gone through the program is able to stay sober for more than a year.

Krug said the success rate might seem low, but many of the women who have been successful have gone on to get educations, raise families and get good jobs. 

"I was that 'one' person," she said.

Pregnant mothers who enter the facility have babies who are born drug-free, she said.

Monica Boone, a 51-year-old Medford woman who works part-time at OnTrack, said she went through the treatment program in 1997 and again in 2001, acknowledging how difficult it is to overcome addiction.

She said she came to Oregon from Phoenix, Arizona, and credits OnTrack for turning her life around and giving her the chance to raise her daughter.

"If I would have lost her, I would have used again," Boone said.

Her 21-year-old daughter graduated with a 4.0 GPA from Rogue Community College last summer, she said.

Boone said it's always difficult to predict what woman will make it and what woman won't.

"I've seen a girl come in here that nobody thought would make it and she did," Boone said.

For some OnTrack clients, it's a long and often elusive journey to recovery.

Jerrah Roley, 32, came to OnTrack right after her 2-month-old baby, Gage Gairson, was born. She said she has been clean and sober for 63 days so far.

Roley has returned to the Mom's Program several times after relapsing and has had three children over an 11-year period. She was homeless and lived near a park before coming back two months ago.

"If it weren't for this program, I would have lost these kids a long time ago," she said. "It's a struggle every day."

— Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

Cecilya Gairson, 3, spends time with her mom, Jerrah Roley, and infant brother Gage at the OnTrack Mom's Program in Medford. [Mail Tribune / Denise Baratta]