Recovery Talks: Women’s La Verna Lodge

August 20th, 2020

Discussing the crisis of addiction, your host Kathleen Gill, and Jay Harpring talk about the new location for the women’s lodge and the extended residential treatment specifically designed for women struggling with substance-use disorders. Read the full transcript from the podcast below or listen to it here or on iTunes or Google.


Kathleen Gill:  Welcome to Recovery Talks: A Fairbanks Podcast where experts from Fairbanks Treatment and Recovery Center located in Indianapolis, Indiana, take time to discuss unique aspects of addictions, substance use disorder, and recovery as well as other relevant issues with our guests. I’m Kathleen Gill, your host. I’ve worked at Fairbanks since 2007 and I am a woman proudly living in recovery.

Kathleen Gill:  Today on Recovery Talks, we’re talking about longterm residential treatment programs for women and we are joined by Jay Harpring, the manager of Fairbanks La Verna Lodge for Women. Jay, thanks so much for being here.

Jay Harpring:  Thank you. It’s a pleasure being here, Kathleen.

Kathleen Gill:  You worked at the main hospital for many, many years. Tell us your history with Fairbanks and what led you eventually to La Verna Lodge for Women.

Jay Harpring:  Well, my journey with Fairbanks started in May of 2012. I started as an IOP therapist working with a men’s evening IOP group. And from there, I did that for about two years, and then I entered into the family therapy role at Fairbanks and did family therapy with the patients from inpatient, outpatient programming, and some from residential, and also ran a family support group there. And did that for roughly two years, and there came about a position at the Women’s LA Verna Lodge for a manager. And with my history and my experience, I felt I was supported in going towards a role in management and decided that this would be a great opportunity.

Jay Harpring:  I grew up with six sisters, so the lodge is kind of like home at times, good or bad. And so I’ve been there as manager for the past, it’ll be almost three years.

Kathleen Gill:  Fabulous. That’s funny that it feels like home being around all the ladies.

Jay Harpring:  It is, and I think that’s one of the things that we try to put into place for our ladies coming in.

Kathleen Gill:  To make it feel like home for them.

Jay Harpring:  Yes, very much so.

Kathleen Gill:  Yes, indeed. That’s wonderful. So tell our audience about the difference of residential longterm care versus the traditional care that we have available at the main hospital at Fairbanks.

Jay Harpring:  Traditionally, when most people come into a treatment center, there is a detox unit, and from there, typically they would go perhaps into an outpatient setting, PHP, IOP, and so forth. The piece for residential treatment is one that not everyone has the opportunity to take advantage of, and we strongly encourage those that can to take that opportunity to have more of a long term position in treatment with us in the residential setting, as I said before with creating a home base and so forth for them, it’s a place where they can foster more insight into themselves with the help of the treatment team, the medical staff at the hospital, the therapists, the patient care techs that work there every day. And from there that long term care then, every day with therapy, case management, outings and so forth, that they’re able to create a stronger base for their recovery start.

Jay Harpring:  This is an early stage of recovery still, and from that, them having the opportunity to be able to dive into deeper issues, but at the same time getting their feet wet in what is recovery? What does this look like without all the other things of life bombarding them at one time?

Kathleen Gill:  Right. So kind of like the olden days, if you will, when treatment was more of a 28 to 30-day program?

Jay Harpring:  Yes. And there are still people that come in thinking that that’s kind of how it is, and with insurance changes and so forth over the years, that’s not the way it is. And so that residential piece that makes it so important is that we can create that for some. And with that, they’re able to take advantage of having that stronger connection with other peers, with treatment providers, and be able to move forward as they then would continue their journey into the outpatient setting after residential treatment.

Kathleen Gill:  So if a patient comes to Fairbanks and is on the detox unit, you said that there are some people who have the opportunity to take advantage of this residential care at La Verna Lodge. What kind of makes the difference between those who can and cannot go to La Verna?

Jay Harpring:  I think one of the biggest difference really, unfortunately, comes down to finances. Treatment can be very expensive, and so the residential piece, for some, is insurance-based. If the insurance is able to have that as part of their care package for that individual, they’re able to then take advantage of that. Also, we sometimes have self-pay patients, those that are financially equipped to take care of this kind of financial piece in order to get into a longterm setting. So that’s what kind of limits the opportunity.

Jay Harpring:  There is another way. We have this past year been able to partner with Marion County Family Recovery Court. They have referred patients to us from their program, not a lot, but it’s a starting place. And my hope is is that with more funding, we would be able to have more women come into our program via the family court piece. They have paid 30 days of treatment time, which again is a remarkable thing when a lot of these women don’t have insurance or the right insurance, or they don’t have the self-pay capacity, and they’re able then to be able to get services, just like anyone else coming into La Verna, and be a part of the family.

Kathleen Gill:  Great. And then once the women are there at La Verna, what is a typical stay?

Jay Harpring:  A typical stay is for 30 days. We do have times when a patient will stay for a longer period of time, perhaps two to three months. And with that, it’s looking at how do we keep this fresh because I think when you’re in that kind of setting for a longterm, it can create issues with becoming too familiar. So we need to kind of spice it up and make sure that the patient is continuing to focus and continuing to be encouraged and to give that sense of hope.

Kathleen Gill:  How long has the La Verna Lodge out in the Shelbyville area been open?

Jay Harpring:  It opened about six years ago. And from there, there was an initial manager that helped start up the program, and she ended up leaving that position. And from there, we reevaluated the residential setting and made some adjustments, and then that’s when my position became available.

Kathleen Gill:  I believe I’ve heard that the lodge is going to be moving in the near future.

Jay Harpring:  Yes. We’re very excited about that.

Kathleen Gill:  Tell me about that.

Jay Harpring:  We’re excited because this opportunity will allow us to become closer to the hospital setting on the Northside of Indianapolis and Marion County. We’ll be roughly about 10 minutes away.

Kathleen Gill:  Nice.

Jay Harpring:  So that will be an advantage for our patients. Because being in Shelbyville, there is a transport time, it’s roughly 45 minutes, and that can cut a lot of time away from the lodge. So this way, we’ll be able to be closer, be closer to the hospital for appointments, for issues that we may need to address in Marion County with the patient because of perhaps DCS, or probation officers, and medical attention. So that’s going to offer us more for our patients plus for our employees to be closer to the main campus as well.

Kathleen Gill:  Great, great. So describe for us a typical day of what the women would experience at La Verna.

Jay Harpring:  Well, usually, the day starts every day with them getting up in the morning and making sure that they have their medication regiment monitored. From there, they would create their own meal, breakfast, they make their own food and so forth, meals.

Jay Harpring:  So from there, they would have the start of the day with the therapist with goals and gratitude, and also meditation at that time. And what follows from that is that then the group, the actual group for the day starts, and we actually go down into our basement level where that’s where the groups originate, and they’re there for roughly about three hours. All this takes from 9:00 to 12:00 every day. After that, we would then take our ladies to a noon meeting in Shelbyville, which they’ve become very familiar with and is very supportive to our ladies. Shelbyville has been a wonderful community for us. And from there, they would come back to the lodge, or perhaps on certain days, we would be taking them to the gym, or we would take them if they needed to go shopping for personal items and so forth, we may do that. We may have to take them to the pharmacy to get their medications and so forth.

Jay Harpring:  They will have some downtime during the day where we allow them to kind of focus on themselves, perhaps that’s with some interaction with their peers. Also, that’s a time for them to work on homework assignments that the therapists give them. It’s also a time to connect, perhaps, to their sponsors. We encourage sponsors to come out and visit our ladies and help work with them because we know we’re not providing all of their care. It’s also outside sources. So we have sometimes special guests that come to the lodge, some from the hospital, some from the outside community. Depending on issues, there may be someone from a domestic violence group that comes in and gives lectures and talks to the ladies and talks to them personally and individually if needed, if that’s an issue that they’ve also been struggling with.

Jay Harpring:  From there, later in the day, they may be meeting with their therapist individually for individual therapy. They also would be, by that time of the day, the end of the day, be preparing what their meal would be for the evening. Sometimes our ladies are very different, just depends on the different groups, how they approach that. Some want to be kind of loners at times and fix their own microwave meals and so forth, but others will kind of get the whole group started and create wonderful meals together and enjoy that as a community with food, which is great. And from there, later in the day, we would be taking them to an evening 12-step group in the community. And we just don’t focus on Shelbyville, we focus on Marion County and places like Greenfield, Franklin, different places, Rushville. So they get a plethora of groups to kind of look and kind of realize, is this kind of a group that I would like to return to once I’m even out of Fairbanks?

Jay Harpring:  They would then come back to the house with the patient care tech at night, and kind of hopefully relax a little bit with the group. They are open to watching TV, listening to music. It’s a time for them perhaps to interact with some family on the phone, or their children, or whoever that maybe that’s supportive to them. And there are rules and things that we go by. So there is a curfew at night, and from there, hopefully, they’re sleeping well, but at times they’re not. So we have a person there for them at night to be able to talk to and deal with whatever issue is going on and start up the next day.

Kathleen Gill:  What is the maximum capacity that you have at La Verna Lodge presently?

Jay Harpring:  Presently we have a 10-bed capacity. The new location will actually have eight. One of the issues that we deal with is not having a full house. So in evaluating our new location, we looked at what is more feasible for us knowing that there’s two beds or space that may not be utilized all the time, and how could we that space more. So the eight-bed facility will have some other extra things that we currently do not have.

Kathleen Gill:  Tell us one of the La Verna Lodge women success stories.

Jay Harpring:  I think there’s been several, but one that really stands out for me is a young woman who came to the lodge about four or five years ago. And she has shared her story publicly and she will tell others and the ladies that she meets at the lodge that she came in like a tornado, had lots of issues, was not open to treatment at that time, but still maintained and got through everything that she needed to. And she is one of our successes because when I became manager, I approached her about leading the alumni group that we have at the lodge. And when I talk about alumni, what I mean is women who have gone through the La Verna program, and are still in recovery, and need an outlet to be able to foster and help themselves with others helping them, but also give good support to new women coming into the program. They’ve been there, they know the path, they know what it takes and they’re able to offer support.

Jay Harpring:  So this young woman pretty much ran that for the last three years, all on her own. And she has a full-time job elsewhere and was able to make that a commitment to La Verna, to the new women, and a commitment to herself. And I’m happy to say that within the past few months I’ve hired her as a PRN patient care technician for us, and she’s absolutely fabulous. She’s glowing in this position and she resonates with the ladies, they resonate with her, and it’s just a great fit. And it really shows how coming around full circle, the whole way of how someone can come in and have issues and struggles and be able to look at themselves with supports and be open to change, and how that change can affect so many other people in their life. So that’s one of our success stories.

Kathleen Gill:  That is a success story. As the coordinator for the volunteers and our alumni association at Fairbanks, it is such a joy to watch that success, and it is such a joy to see … I call it kind of the triangle. It’s these people come back and they volunteer at Fairbanks, in whatever capacity it is, and not only is it helping Fairbanks as an organization, we just had our volunteer appreciation dinner and we had the 185 volunteers that are at Fairbanks gave over 10,000 hours, which equates to five full-time employees. And so these volunteers who do a little bit of work individually, when you put it all together, it makes such an impact on a not-for-profit organization. But then that’s just one side of the triangle. And you then have what it does for them in helping them maintain their own personal journey of recovery, and then of course for the clients also, being mentored and seeing that it is possible. It’s just so rich when the individuals do come back and share their success with us. It is really a sight to behold.

Jay Harpring:  It is, and how worthy, I feel very humbled to be able to experience that.

Kathleen Gill:  And it is not uncommon that our volunteers are alumni and then volunteers often seek employment at Fairbanks so that they can begin to feel that impact of doing that as well. So that is a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing that.

Kathleen Gill:  So obviously, Fairbanks felt there was a need to have a facility just for women. What is it that makes it necessary or how is a woman struggling with substance use disorder different from men?

Jay Harpring:  Well, really, it comes down to both kind of like biological and psychological factors that are put in for both men and women. For women, the role of caretaker is such an embedded piece for them that a lot of times the women that come into treatment, and especially at the lodge, even though they’ve made a choice to perhaps come there, they really sometimes struggle early on about remaining there because it’s such a hard thing to do when they know they have children at home, that either their partner or another family member, a parent is watching these children, and they’re not there to do that and they feel really guilty about that.

Jay Harpring:  And the issue becomes very hard sometimes to get through to them that this is the time for themselves. This is a time for them to focus just on them, and that by doing that, the peace of going back home can be strengthened. Because unfortunately, we’ve seen in the profession, how women have perhaps not taken advantage of opportunities for recovery and have lost some of those things that they felt they needed to leave early in treatment to go back to. And that’s a really sad situation.

Jay Harpring:  So for women, that whole piece of being there at home, the caretaker taking care of everything, they realize eventually, the hope is that they realize, “I need to do this for me, and not for anyone else, but for me.”

Kathleen Gill:  And it’s so important for those who are caretakers to be healthy in order to care for others.

Jay Harpring:  Exactly.

Kathleen Gill:  And really, that health needs to start right with them.

Jay Harpring:  Right. So our women coming into the lodge, a lot of them are looking at issues that they haven’t allowed themselves to look at before. And that can at times be a real struggle as well because there’s a fear at times looking at something that they’ve perhaps not wanted to look at, that they have felt like they were not worthy to have good things happen to them. Unfortunately, issues of trauma and violence and so forth that a lot of our ladies have experienced in life, and at times are experiencing in the moment, they’re coming to the lodge to a safe place, that’s what we really want to create, a safe place for them, and they’re leaving their home life because perhaps that’s not the safe place. So we need to always remember kind of where they have come from and where they can go on the journey.

Jay Harpring:  I think at La Verna, yes, it’s longterm, and we get to perhaps be with certain people, our patients, longer than other providers may be able to be with them, and we get to know them really well. We’re having lunch with them perhaps, we’re seeing them before we leave from work and we see them as soon as we get there in the morning. We have to remember that in that safety, we’re also wanting to make sure that they are taking advantage of all the opportunities that they have and looking at and taking … well, I guess what I would say, taking risks, healthy risks, that could always be something that could be the pulsating heartbeat of what their recovery could look like for the future, and looking at all of those nuances of what brought them there and what they really need to focus on.

Kathleen Gill:  And you mentioned how you did family counseling. Is there a family component to the work you do at La Verna Lodge?

Jay Harpring:  There is, and that was one of the attractions for this position and being able to kind of help create the program with my direction as a family therapist. There is a family therapy group that meets at the lodge on Sundays from 12:30pm to 2:00pm, and that is just for family members. The patients are not involved in that therapy piece with the therapist. And they are given information about what is addiction, what are coping skills for them to learn in dealing with a loved one in early recovery. Also, we’re looking at how are they taking care of themselves.

Jay Harpring:  So these are things that a lot of family members have also put to the side because they feel like, “I can’t upset my loved ones,” and we have to get them past that kind of thinking so that they understand they also need to take care of themselves in this process and be able to learn how to cope with what may come next. Hopefully, it’s a good ending to this piece, but we also know that relapse is part of our recovery journey. And with that, there are some ups and downs in this process, and family members deal with that.

Jay Harpring:  So we make it a point to have family visitation on Sundays as well, typically from 2:00pm to 5:00pm. And children are allowed to come out and visit their family, their mothers, their sisters, their aunts, whatever the relationship may be. We do limit that to family or very, very close supportive immediate people because we want to make sure that, again, this is a safe place and that we monitor who’s able to come in and who’s not.

Kathleen Gill:  How effective do you feel like longterm residential treatment is?

Jay Harpring:  I feel like the longterm piece, for many, can be the start of that journey. There are some people that come there and the ladies would say, “Well, I’m spending 30 days here, and then I’m going back home.” Our hearts kind of flutter a little bit when we hear that because for some if they do not plan well if they do not take advantage of what they’re hearing in the therapy sessions with their therapist if they’re not following the direction that could help them in this process, that if they don’t take advantage of that, that they’re going to be back, and we know that. We take that into consideration. We have had some ladies that have come back a few times to the lodge, and what we need to do, kind of like when I said earlier, we need to kind of spice it up, we need to make sure that we’re not just repeating everything that we did prior with them, we need to change it up. And we actually have the patient participating in that piece. We want to hear from them what needs to be different at this time.

Jay Harpring:  So the treatment is individualized, and with that, again, we’re looking at other avenues within the Fairbanks community of what other treatment sources can be offered to them. We have a trauma group at the Fairbanks Hospital IOP that we would end up perhaps referring them to that therapist, and she’s very good about helping them look at trauma issues and coping and so forth. And with that, that’s just another piece for us to have another advantage over some other places that do recovery work that we’re able to give that to them.

Jay Harpring:  The piece I think is that while they’re at the lodge, we try to integrate them, even though it’s not home and it may seem very different from home, but we’re in the community. We’re not just this isolated beautiful setting that we’re in, but we also go into the community and attend meetings and deal with whatever may be brought up within the community piece that we need to deal with. There are issues with stigma with addiction, and sometimes we have to deal with that within the community.

Jay Harpring: And our ladies learn from the experience with supports, a supportive environment that they’re able to get through this, but they really learn to help support each other in the process. And I think that that’s an important piece for the success rate of ladies coming in, that we have a small group of women and they really get to know each other, and some of them really become good friends and mentors to each other. And we know that they are out in the community once they leave us, and they’re going to dinner, they’re going to meetings together, they’re coming to the lodge in the alumni group. So that’s the success piece that we see. Those that stay connected to Fairbanks and the recovery community, that that is part of the solution.

Kathleen Gill:  It is. The fellowship that happens in the lodges, because Fairbanks also has a counterpart, there is a La Verna Lodge for Men that has been around close to 20 years, and it is the fellowship and the brotherhood that happens there and the sisterhood that happens at the women’s lodge, it is really powerful to see that. I personally am very excited for you all to move closer to the main hospital so that they can get involved in volunteering, and it is really wonderful to see those meetings happen and that continuation of friendship and growth in their own recovery.

Kathleen Gill:  So another question I have for you, Fairbanks is entering into our 75th year in business and evidence practice is very, very important. Is the work that you’re doing out at the lodge evidence-based practice?

Jay Harpring:  Yes, it is. We take pride in that piece and making sure that our therapy skills are up to date. We use motivational interviewing skills within the therapy practice, cognitive behavioral therapy work that’s done on a daily basis. We’re continuing again, with looking at the trauma issue and looking at evidence-based issues of how we deal with that within our setting and how that can then be transferred to those that are going to that trauma IOP group. And with that, always looking at what else is there, what else can we do? So keeping up on our therapy skills is a very big piece of what our profession demands and what Fairbanks has that as an expectation as well.

Kathleen Gill:  That’s great. That’s great. Jay, is there anything else you’d like for us to know about La Verna Lodge?

Jay Harpring:  You know, it’s where life happens. Everyone involved that’s touched by this place that we call home, our second home, has an understanding that we have a mission to help others, but as we’re helping them, they’re also helping us, and fostering that peace is one of our goals. Some of my staff are in recovery. Some have never had the issue of substance use, but they’ve had loved ones that have had this piece for them, and they all have a passion. I think there’s a big passion at La Verna to help our women become stronger, more empowered, and to be able to move towards a future with perhaps new understandings that they never had before.

Kathleen Gill:  And that is what recovery looks like. You’re doing good work out there.

Jay Harpring:  Thank you. I appreciate that.

Kathleen Gill:  Keep that up. Jay, I so much thank you for joining me. At Fairbanks, we like to say, together we can. That’s an open-ended statement that means we can do more and overcome more when we do it together. So I would love to have you finish that statement. Together we can …

Jay Harpring:  Together we can instill hope, hope for a brighter future.

Kathleen Gill:  Fantastic. This has been Recovery Talks: A Fairbanks Podcast. If you or a loved one needs support in the journey of recovery, the experts at Fairbanks Treatment and Recovery Center can help. Visit our website; fairbanksrecovery.org for recovery resources, or call 800-225-HOPE for immediate help. Thanks for listening.