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Updated: October 16, 2023

After three-year search, recovery center finds location to expand on outskirts of Portland

2 people standing in parking lot in front of building Photo / Tim Greenway Milestone Recovery’s executive director, Thomas Doherty, left, and Justin Lamontagne from the Dunham Group said they looked at 30 or 40 different buildings in their search for an additional location.

It took three years, but Milestone Recovery was finally able to find the right property to expand its services.

MAHC Inc., doing business as Milestone Recovery, bought 10 Andover Road in Portland from CBS Realty LLC for $2.5 million.

Justin Lamontagne from the Dunham Group and Chris Paszyc from the Boulos Co. brokered the sale.

The search encompassed several cities and towns.

“The requirement was very specific,” said Lamontagne. “We needed to find privacy, security and appropriate zoning,” among other considerations.

The 9,460-square-foot medical office building on Andover Road is in great shape, he said, and includes needed infrastructure such as life safety systems. 

“The sellers and their broker deserve a lot of credit. They saw the importance of what’s happening here,” Lamontagne added.

Milestone Recovery is a nonprofit that provides programs and services for people who suffer from homelessness and/or substance abuse. Services include residential treatment, emergency shelter and recovery housing. 

Compassionate DNA

“Part of our DNA is that we’re run and operated by people in recovery themselves,” said Thomas Doherty, Milestone’s executive director. “That gives us level of compassion and understanding that you don’t find everywhere.”

Milestone was founded in Scarborough in 1967 as a detoxification program with services focused on people with addiction to alcohol or other drugs who could not afford to pay the full cost of their care.

In 1979, Milestone moved to Old Orchard Beach, where it established a residential treatment program. The program still has a presence there and recently expanded its treatment center from 16 beds to 21. In 2002, the Old Orchard Beach location opened a permanent housing program to assist graduates of the residential care program to have sober housing and ongoing support.

In 1998, Milestone assumed sponsorship of an emergency shelter and detoxification program, previously run by Catholic Charities Maine, at 65 India St. in Portland. The location now houses a 36-bed emergency men’s shelter on the ground floor, Milestone’s administrative offices and housing navigation services on the second floor, and a 16-bed medically supervised residential detoxification withdrawal unit on the top floor. 

In 2010, in collaboration with the city of Portland, Portland Downtown and other community partners, Milestone launched a mobile unit called the Homeless Outreach and Mobile Engagement (HOME) Team, to provide services to individuals living on the streets of Portland and suffering with chronic mental health and substance use disorders. The mobile unit has more than 17,000 contacts with homeless individuals each year, resulting in 3,000 transports to shelters, substance use treatment programs and emergency medical care.

In 2016, Milestone launched a housing navigator program to move chronically homeless individuals into stable, permanent housing. Since its founding, the program has helped more than 100 chronically homeless individuals find permanent housing.

In 2019, it opened a Portland residence called Mary Dowd House to provide safe, affordable, recovery-supportive housing for women in recovery.

Complex search requirements

An additional location was needed in order to expand capacity of the medically supervised residential detoxification withdrawal unit that’s currently on the top floor of the India Street location. 

In its search, Milestone was looking to own rather than lease. Other search parameters included being accessible to Greater Portland, ideally on a bus line. The building would need to accommodate overnight sleeping arrangements, a commercial kitchen and laundry, and life safety systems. Elevators would be needed for a multi-story building.

“We looked at 30 or 40 different buildings,” Doherty said. “The rules require that we have a lot of pieces in place. People will be sleeping overnight in the building. That ups the ante as far as our requirements.”

The Andover Road building dates back about 20 years and was previously occupied by Maine Medical Partners’ Casco Bay Surgery, which is now at 55 Spring St. in Scarborough.

“They left us with a beautiful facility,” said Doherty.

Renovations are underway and include installing a new fire alarm system, four showers, a commercial kitchen and a laundry. Medical spaces will be reconfigured as bedrooms. The bedrooms will be fireproofed. 

Financing for the purchase of 10 Andover Road included a $2.1 million grant from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, a loan from Katahdin Trust Co, and $822,700 from American Rescue Plan Act funds. 

Renovations are expected to total about $500,000. Private foundations and individual donors are financing renovations, furniture, fixtures and equipment, and the creation of a commercial laundry and commercial kitchen. 

“Oftentimes as people enter recovery, they’re at the worst day of their life,” Doherty said. “So for them to come in and be greeted in a nice facility with a smiling face and someone welcoming them in is really important. It says volumes about what we think of the decisions that they’ve made for themselves.”

Withdrawal unit

The Andover Road location will open with 30 beds in single and double rooms for its medically supervised residential detoxification withdrawal unit, which will be moved from the top floor of the India Street location. 

Then the India Street location’s ground-floor emergency men’s shelter will move to the top floor for a while, so that the ground floor can be renovated. That renovation is expected to take about a month. The emergency men’s shelter will then move back to the ground floor.

Milestone hasn’t yet determined how it will use the top floor after the medically supervised withdrawal unit moves to Andover Road.

Long-time staff

Milestone has 76 employees now and expects to have a little over 100 when the Andover Street location is fully staffed. That mainly includes nurses, counseling staff, detox attendants and peer support workers. 

Doherty said he didn’t anticipate difficulties in finding the employees needed.

“We’re starting to make progress,” he said. “There’s a lot of affinity for the mission work we do. People are attracted to nursing and counseling for folks who are most at need. Our working conditions are good, in that it’s a small team and people have a lot of authority.”

He continued, “We have staff who have been with us for 42, 45 years. That’s almost unheard of. People tend to come here and either they don’t like it right away or they stay a very long time. If you want to be involved at the crossroads of Maine’s two biggest challenges — the housing crisis and substance abuse — this is a place where you can really make a difference.”

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