SEABROOK — The town reached out to a local substance abuse recovery center this week to start negotiations to rent the former Sanborn School to the organization.

Town Manager Bill Manzi said he met with Safe Harbor Director Elizabeth Miller on Tuesday to start drafting a lease so the nonprofit can expand into the larger space. 

The meeting came three weeks after the election March 14, when local voters approved a citizen petition warrant article calling for selectmen to enter into a 10-year building lease with Granite Pathways. Safe Harbor is an arm of Granite Pathways.

Manzi hasn't received the Board of Selectmen's specifics on what it would like the lease to include, he said, but he and Miller will tour Sanborn School next week so she can get a feel for the building. 

"I'm looking to bring a general contractor with me so we can see what it takes to open the doors as soon as possible," Miller said. "I am very excited that the petition passed and very eager to move forward. Our current (Seabrook) location is wonderful, but we can't offer the same programs we do at our Safe Harbor facility in Portsmouth until we have a larger space."

Last year, when originally approached to lease the building for substance abuse recovery efforts, the majority of selectmen voted to put the matter up for a vote through a citizen petition. 

Jim Sanborn III filed the petition, which passed by more than 140 votes. Sanborn said he always believed his article would pass, given how many people in town are touched by the opioid epidemic sweeping the region. 

With 148 drug overdoses in Seabrook – 19 resulting in fatalities – since 2015, many residents believe the community must act to help its own, Sanborn said.  

While awaiting the results of the petition, Safe Harbor officials arranged to share office space with Seacoast Youth Services at 867 Lafayette Road (Route 1). Since opening in late February, Safe Harbor has received a positive response, Miller said.

"People have absolutely committed," she said. "We not only have regular 12-step meetings but we also have two family meetings and a yoga class. The meetings have been averaging between 10 to 15 people, which is a very good response."

Groups that meet at Safe Harbor Recovery Center include Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Heroin Anonymous, Smart Recovery, Smart Family and Friends, Families Hoping and Coping. Miller said the first night the NA and HA meetings were held, 20 people turned out for each.

"The number of people who've shown up, just by word of mouth, is fantastic," Miller said. "It's really proven there is a real need for these services."  

Miller will soon offer a four-day Recovery Coach Academy beginning April 27 to train people who want to help in the recovery process. 

"It's going to be at the Seabrook Public Library and we already have 21 people signed up for it," Miller said. "That's an incredible response. Those signed up include people in recovery and allies of those in recovery but also officials and others who want to learn about this."

For more about Safe Harbor Recovery Center, call 603-570-9444 or visit its Facebook page. 

Angeljean Chiaramida can be reached at 978-961-3147, at achiaramida@newburyportnews.com, or follow her on Twitter @achiaramida1.

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