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Expansion Project Will Double Number of Clients At Canton Halfway House

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CANTON — Expansion and renovation work on a halfway house operated by North Country Freedom Homes at 23 Dies St. is in full swing as the agency prepares to move 12 clients and staff members from its Madrid site to Canton this fall.

The number of clients in Canton will double from 12 to 24 after the $2 million project is complete and the Madrid home at 3702 County Route 14 closes.

All of the clients are males, 18 and older. Most were referred to the halfway house after receiving inpatient rehabilitation for alcohol or substance abuse.

“They are in the early stages of recovery,” said Gregory A. Aldrich, director of services for North Country Freedom Homes, a nonprofit agency that’s overseen by the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. “The average stay is six and a half months.”

Mr. Aldrich said moving the Madrid clients to Canton will provide them easier access to St. Lawrence County services that are headquartered in Canton, as well as other activities.

Those include weekly one-on-one sessions with counselors at the county’s Alcohol and Chemical Dependency Services at the county’s Route 310 Community Services building. The county also offers group meetings related to anger management and other issues.

Residing in Canton also provides access to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings on a regular basis.

State officials decided to close the Madrid site after determining it would be too costly to renovate the century-old home, which needed plumbing and electrical work.

“They determined it would be most cost effective to operate one location. People living in Madrid were having to get to Canton on a regular basis,” Mr. Aldrich said. “This will provide them more frequent access to services and it gets our staff in one place.”

The new addition at the Dies Street home was finished in June and includes a new kitchen and dining room, a TV lounge and a waiting room on the first floor. The second floor houses 10 new bedrooms, bathrooms and showers. Also, the building has an elevator and for the first time is fully handicapped-accessible.

The old portion of the building has been gutted and is in the process of being renovated to match the new section. Crews from Northern Tier Contracting Inc., Gouverneur, are handling the construction work, which was funded primarily by the state. The work is supposed to be finished by Sept. 30, and the Madrid clients are expected to move to Canton Oct. 10. The agency plans to sell the Madrid house.

An open house will be scheduled to allow the public to tour the building.

Mr. Aldrich said he doesn’t foresee any problems related to doubling the number of people at the Canton site.

In his 25 years working at the home, Mr. Aldrich said, he doesn’t believe there has ever been violence between clients or incidents of vandalism.

“Clients are very much aware we will treat them with respect at all times and they’re expected to treat each other the same way,” he said.

Also, he said, the agency has good relationships with others in the residential neighborhood. Neighbors were notified about the expansion project last fall, and no concerns were raised at a public hearing held before a village board meeting.

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