New Bethany Hall Director Hopes for Program Visibility

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The Bethany Hall Residential Recovery Program began forty two years ago in Old Southwest.
The Bethany Hall Residential Recovery Program began forty two years ago in Old Southwest.

by Gene Marrano

Denise Yopp has been the executive director at Bethany Hall, a long-term residential recovery program for women battling substance abuse, for the past few months, although she’s been working inside the program as a therapist and program director for 12 years. The program can last up to nine months. “With others you’re lucky to get up to thirty days,” said Yopp, who once had to recover from her own substance abuse issues.

Bethany Hall, which began 42 years ago as a halfway house, is one of only two programs for women in Virginia where they can be housed with their children. Centered at a large house in Old Southwest with room for 14 patients, the program rents additional apartments nearby when space is a problem.  Women from across the state and elsewhere find their way to Bethany Hall, which is listed as a treatment center on government databases for substance abuse programs.

There is “no magic cure” to help these women break the cycle of substance abuse, according to Yopp, but Bethany Hall employs the 12-step methodology.  Behavior therapy, a holistic approach that includes yoga and acupuncture, and teaching about better critical skills involves a “wraparound [approach]” to the problem.  Many come to the program after being raised in an environment where substance abuse – drugs or alcohol – may have been the norm. “They don’t know how to do anything different,” said Yopp, who adds that 90 percent of the women involved were abused in some way.

Three months into the program clients are encouraged to find a job. A transition period begins at six months and after nine months the program hopes they are ready for the real world.

There is some tough love involved: women can be discharged from Bethany Hall if they slide back into substance abuse, or even smoke cigarettes.  “It’s about changing the behaviors that people learn in addiction,” said Yopp.

 A structured schedule from 7am to 10pm helps keep the women on track. Partner agencies like Blue Ridge Behavioral Health Care are often involved.  A one-year aftercare program and a thirty-day cycle for those who have slipped a bit are also part of the agenda.

“Jackie” graduated from the program and is now in aftercare. She was seven months pregnant and homeless when she entered Bethany Hall. Opiates were her drug of choice. “I wanted to desperately stop,” said Jackie, who left Bethany Hall early the first time when she wasn’t “ready to change.” She lost a three-month-old son and spent time in jail. “That was kind of my bottom.” She came back to Bethany Hall and eventually got back on track. That is how effective treatment at residential inpatient opiate rehabs can be.

At any time of the year two to three graduates, like Jackie, come back daily to help current residents or administrators with programs or fundraising, like a recent bake sale.  “What we create at Bethany Hall is a family,” said Yopp. The program is funded by United Care, Medicaid and local social service agencies, grant requests and several fundraisers, including a fashion show, are also the norm. The annual campaign is underway now.  Local governments chip in a bit, but state and federal funds are hard to come by. “It’s a constant battle,” said Yopp, who hopes to raise the visibility quotient for Bethany Hall. “We certainly need help and support.”

The holiday season can be tough: “A lot of family issues come up during the holidays, a lot of loss issues,” notes Yopp. “It’s a stressful time for everybody.”  Dealing at the same time “with a chronic disease that kills people,” makes it especially difficult.

It is “personally rewarding to provide [these women] what was provided to me,” said Yopp about her own experience with the substance abuse recovery program at Bethany Hall. It’s not just about quitting drugs and alcohol. It’s also about “not being down on themselves so much.” See bethanyhall.org for more on the program or to make a donation.