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Cushing Houses


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Cushing Houses, two treatment facilities operating under the aegis of the South Boston-based Gavin Foundation, provide six-month residential treatment  to individuals between the ages of 16 and 20 who are coping with addiction and substance abuse issues. One of the houses is for young men, the other is for young women. The program is a hybrid of sorts in that clients live at Cushing Houses but go to Gavin Foundation’s nearby Center for Recovery Services (CRS) for outpatient treatment.

Accommodations and Food

Cushing Houses’ gender-specific units are separate but relatively equal. The 16-bed unit for male residents, which opened in 2005, has eight double-occupancy rooms with twin-size beds and a dresser for each person. (One of the rooms has a bunk bed). Residents share a dormitory-style bathroom. As far as recreation, there’s foosball, table tennis, billiards and a lounge area with a TV. Viewing is limited to the evening.

The 14-bed unit for females, opened in 2008, has seven rooms that accommodate two people each and are furnished with twin beds, dressers, nightstands and an armoire for storage. As in the male quarters, the bathroom is dormitory-style and shared by all the young women. There’s also a common lounge area with a TV.

Meals are prepared by staff chefs in the facility’s large well-stocked kitchen. Food comes from two local food banks and the daily menus vary. Typically, breakfast choices include biscuits and gravy, bacon and eggs, French toast, pancakes, cereal and bagels. Lunch is usually sandwiches. Dinner is a hearty entree such as chicken, pork chops, burgers, meatloaf, pulled pork and, once a month, steak, and entrees are served with salad, potatoes and a vegetable. Sugar and caffeine are permitted, but energy drinks are off limits after 3 pm. Occasionally, a resident can request a specially prepared meal if he or she has a dish in mind.

Treatment and Staff

Most clients who come to Cushing Houses have been sober for at least a month prior to entry. The  program is based on the 12 steps and teaches residents about the nature of addiction and the principles of recovery. Additionally, clients are enrolled in AA’s Way of Life (AAWOL) program during which they study each step intensively for two weeks.

During the first 45 days of treatment, residents have group therapy during the day, off-site 12-step meetings every evening, and individual therapy once a week. When this phase is over, they attend meetings at a nearby recovery-based high school or work during the day. At night, they are required to continue with 12-step meetings.

A typical day begins with 6:45 am wake-up, followed by breakfast, chores and a 15-minute meditation. There’s a short walk, then group sessions before lunch at noon. An activity follows—maybe a field trip or even rowing in the harbor—and then art therapy. Several times a week, there are trips to a local gym. In the more advanced stages of treatment, clients may attend school or work (or look for jobs). but they have to be back at the residence by 5 pm for dinner. After the evening meal, they’re transported by bus to a nearby 12-step meeting. There’s free time at around 9 om or 10 pm, and lights out is at 11 pm.

Privileges are slowly introduced. No electronics are permitted at first but after 30 days residents can use house phones. Depending on the day’s schedule and what they have to do, they may be limited to 10-minute calls; but if they are not engaged in other activities, they have unlimited use of the phone. As treatment progresses, they may also get eight-hour passes to leave the grounds.

There are always two or three male staff members on duty on the floor for male residents, including a 24/7 presence. The staff-to-client ratio is one-to-five. Four counselors—two women during daytime hours and two at night—and a number of part-time staff work with the female residents, and the staff-to-client ratio is one-to-seven.  Generally, male staff work with the young male residents and female staff work with young women. These professionals are mostly LADCs, and credentials also include LCSW and LMHC.

Each resident is assigned a counselor and is also required to have a sponsor and a parent or guardian on call to assume responsibility if a situation arises. Residents who may require detox are referred to a non-affiliated facility in nearby Quincy, Massachusetts.

Visitation takes place from noon until 5 pm on weekends, during which residents can join with family members in a session that educates loved ones about addiction and often calls on parents to share their personal experience of raising a child with substance-abuse issues.

For residential and outpatient treatment, CRS offers a 12-step-oriented program that uses Hazelden‘s “Living in Balance,” which is an instructional, psychoeducational curriculum for treating addiction. Additionally, CRS offers what’s called SOAP—Structured Outpatient Addiction Program–which is a comprehensive plan that allows young adults to get treatment for substance abuse while also working or going to school. These meetings take place one day a week at a site close to CRS.

In outpatient, group therapy lasts from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm each day and individual therapy takes place once a week, employing techniques such as CBT, EMDR and psychoeducation. With six staff members on duty at all times and a maximum of nine people in a group, the staff-to-client ratio at CRS is one-to-nine. Staff credentials include LCSW and LADC I and II, and the staff is a mix of men and women.

Clients with co-occurring disorders can be referred to outside resources while still participating in outpatient treatment at CRS for their substance abuse problems.


Every Monday from 6 pm to 7 pm, Cushing Houses holds family night with pizza and games.

Adolescents participate in in-house meditation, yoga and animal-assisted therapy. Extra-curricular outings include picnics, rock climbing, seasonal field trips and sports events, with destinations including the JFK Library, Hopkinton State Park and Boston Celtics games.

In Summary

Cushing Houses pride themselves on being a community—treatment is assisted by the many staff members who are also in recovery and serve as role models for the young clientele. Alumni are welcomed back and encouraged to share their sobriety success stories with current residents, many of whom may not have family support. Officers from the Boston Police Department also occasionally visit with residents. In fact, Cushing’s close affiliation with the city of Boston is a special one—not only does the facility receive a large amount of funding from the city, but the Gavin Foundation is regarded citywide as a place that goes to any lengths to help and support Boston’s adolescents struggling with addiction.

Cushing Houses Location

54 Old Colony Ave
South Boston, MA 02127

Cushing Houses Cost

Free for adolescents. Reach Cushing Houses by phone at (617) 269-2933.  Cushing Houses on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn

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