There's a three-month waiting list at the Susan B. Anthony Recovery Center, a program that allows drug addicted mothers to get treatment while living with their children instead of putting them in foster care and going to prison.
Yet the center has more than 30 empty beds, its highest number ever after the Department of Corrections slashed its budget by nearly 70 percent. As with many non-profits in a sour economy, funding is drying up, making it difficult to pay the more than $71 a day per bed.
It's a common quandary for state agencies in a tough economy _ cut funds and save money now or risk costing taxpayers more money in the long run.
For every dollar spent at the center, the state saves almost $3 in the cost of prison and foster care, says executive director Marsha Currant.
It would cost the state nearly $80,000 to incarcerate nine mothers and another $80,000 to keep their roughly 20 children in foster care during a five month period. That's about $160,650, compared to the $61,182 it costs Susan B. Anthony Recovery Center to care for the mothers and children for the same time period, said Currant.
Susan Nyamora was looking at five years in prison for cocaine possession and losing custody of her four children before she was court ordered into the program. She found out she was pregnant in jail.
She resented the program and yelled at her therapist. There were too many chores and too many rules. It had been more than 16 years since Nyamora had cooked, washed dishes or taken care of herself or her children. Those habits had drowned in a whirl of addiction.
Her daughter was three days old when Nyamora started treatment in 2007. About a year later, she got custody of her other children back. This month marks her third year of sobriety.
Now she works as a case manager at the center after graduating with high honors from a community college last year. She traveled to Tallahassee last year, carrying a picture of her mug shot and a picture of her daughter, Nevaeh.
"I could be in prison and this baby could be in foster care," she told legislators from around the state, hoping to get more funding for the center.
DOC spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said the benefits of programs like Susan B. Anthony and a handful of similar residential treatment programs around the state are indisputable.
"Offenders who complete treatment are less likely to go back into the community, commit another crime, create another victim and spend time in prison or jail," she said. "Unfortunately, the reality is since 2008 our community based residential funding has been cut."
The agency reduced the number of beds they funded for these programs from 1,876 to 1,244 beds statewide in 2008-2009.
The Susan B. Anthony Recovery Center started in 1995 after a local charity saw a need to find less invasive ways to treat drug addicted mothers. Instead of incarcerating them and putting the kids in foster care, the mother could get treatment, job skills and parenting classes while living with their children in onsite apartments. Roughly 600 families have been reunited through the center.
During the day, children go to day care next door while the moms start the morning with meditation, yoga or some type of exercise. There's acupuncture to help with drug cravings, GED classes, computer skills, life skills and a regimented substance abuse program.
Many of the children also receive therapy onsite.
"It's rare that they don't have some kind of adjustment problem, living in a crack house, being in foster care or because of domestic violence," said Joanna DeAngelo, director of children's services.
Helping the mother bond with a baby during its first year drastically reduces the child's mental health problems later in life, she said.
The center currently has about 25 babies in the program. Many of the women are pregnant.
The Department of Children and Families has kept its funding to the center steady as part of its push to keep families together whenever possible.
"In the past you remove the child and mom goes into treatment and loses her incentive to stay in treatment," said DCF Secretary George Sheldon, who visited the center this year. "If we can address substance abuse and mental health up front you'll have amazing results in reductions of child abuse and domestic violence."
DCF took Julie MacDonald's three kids after finding them in a home full of drug users. Two of the children now live with the 26-year-old at the facility.
"To lay them down in bed and give them hugs and love and not do it over the phone is amazing," said MacDonald, who hopes to get custody of her daughter in a few months.