By Tony Kukulich
Mercy Me Living Sober is a new facility in Beaufort that offers women the opportunity and the space to safely recover from drug and alcohol addiction.
“This is a place for obtaining a new and sober life through our medically approved treatment program, appropriate medication and use of an effective 12-step program,” said founder James Fordam. “Residents of the home learn how to stay clean and maneuver personal challenges with effective tools for living.”
Unlike many drug and alcohol addiction recovery centers, the newly opened recovery home allows residents to take prescription drugs under controlled circumstances. Referred to as medically assisted treatment (MAT), it sets Mercy Me apart from other facilities in the area.
“Several other homes in the area do not allow any meds, including prescription meds, psych meds,” explained Barbara Cusumano, who serves on the Mercy Me board of directors. “In this climate, that’s just not realistic. People are on medications. The client is responsible for getting their own meds. The meds are locked up in a safe, and the house manager and a camera will watch that person, who can only access their medicine box, take their medicines.”
Fordham and Cusumano stressed that Mercy Me is a recovery home. It does not offer detox or other treatment services. There are no doctors or nurses on call.
“We don’t detox, and we’re not a treatment center,” Cusumano said. “We’re a recovery community that has a structured, safe and clean sober house to live in with rules they have to follow.”
Located at 116 Elliott Street in Beaufort, the home recently began accepting patients. It can accommodate up to six live-in female residents at a time. In order to be accepted as a resident, patients must consent to a number of conditions. There is random drug testing, a curfew and residents must participate in a 12-step program. Additionally, residents are required to find work, pay $600 per month for rent, provide their own food and prepare their own meals and perform service work in the community.
Residents are expected to stay for a minimum of three months and no more than one year.
“It’s basically a safe place for people that are in bad situations, that need to get away,” Cusumano said. “With drug addiction, we say that people need a new playground and new friends. If you go back to where you came from, you’re not going to change. That’s what we’re trying to provide.”
In addition to their responsibilities at the home, residents have an opportunity to improve basic life skills like managing a bank account, paying bills and writing a resumé.
“These are people that are hopefully further along so they can hold their job, hold their sobriety and hold their recovery so they can get support from other people doing the same thing,” said Cusumano. “This is for people that are ready to try and start living without drugs – working, paying their bills, reconciling with their family.”
This is the fourth recovery house that Fordham has opened in the area. The first three were opened under the name Hope House. They differ from Mercy Me in that MAT is not offered at the Hope House facilities.
“Back in 2015, I felt that God wanted me to get involved in the recovery community,” Fordham said. “We actually opened our first home in 2016. Two years after that we opened the second men’s home. Two years after that we opened the first women’s home.”
There are plans to open a Mercy Me facility to treat men within the next couple of months. Fordham hopes to open up to three more facilities over the next two years. His goal is that each home is self-supporting through the rent paid by residents. He noted that neither he nor the board of directors are paid for the work they do.
Mercy Me’s first resident, BJ, said she had been sober for a long time, but entered the program after depression following the death of her son a year ago threatened her sobriety.
“One of the main things I need as an adult of like mind that I could talk to,” BJ said. “I was really depressed, and you kind of isolate. After Covid and after my son dying, I was not in a very good mental state of mind. It was worrying me, and I knew what I needed to do. We just support each other. James and his wife are over here all the time. Every time they come, they bring something new to put in the house. They’ve made it very comfortable in all ways.”
“Addicts and alcoholics need more than just a place to get sober,” Fordham said. “They need to stay sober. We provide long-term care and the chance for freedom from the disease of alcoholism and drug addiction.”
The public is invited to a grand opening of Mercy Me Living Sober slated for 1:30 Saturday afternoon, Aug. 6. The event will include a celebration of life for those who lost their struggle with drugs or alcohol.
Tony Kukulich is a recent transplant to the Lowcountry. A native of Wilmington, Del., he comes to The Island News from the San Francisco Bay Area where he spent seven years as a reporter and photographer for several publications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.