Gate House fights drug abuse stigma

By on September 20, 2017

Jodi Holland and Scott Althouse are recovering addicts. They don’t use drugs or alcohol now, but they did in the past. They used to the extent that their disease — the disease of addiction — threatened to cost them everything they held dear, even their lives.

Each eventually hit bottom, which is the end of the road for the many addicts who do hit bottom and who just stay there.

And, more often than not, die.

Holland was using when she was studying for an associate degree in nursing. She hit bottom shortly after she earned her degree, and when she hit bottom she got help to turn her life around. When she stopped using, she went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science and then a master’s in public administration.

“This is what I say to people about my experience,” she said during an interview at the Lititz Gate House. “I didn’t want to grow up to be a broken, criminal-minded, self-centered individual who caused pain to the people who love me. Unfortunately, I suffer from a disease that affects my mind. When I was using, I did very heinous things. I hurt myself and everyone around me.

“When I was using I was like addicts I work with today as a clinician. Users wake up every day, not having a choice, not knowing there’s another way to live. Users wake up thinking about survival, and thinking that narcotics is the solution to survival, or alcohol is the solution, or gambling, or sex.”

When Holland struggled and succeeded in becoming clean and sober, she was determined to help others who had traveled the road she had traveled. The same is true for Scott Althouse.

Althouse grew up in Lititz, and began drinking when he was 13. At 15, he experimented with marijuana. His dad, an active alcoholic who, remarkably, worked as a drug and alcohol counselor, took Althouse to AA meetings at Gate House while we was still in high school.

Althouse left Lititz after graduating from Warwick, and was clean and sober while he earned his bachelor’s and law degrees. He began drinking again while living in Idaho where he worked as an environmental lawyer for Native American tribes. He moved back home to Brickerville, wrecked and penniless, in 2009. It took him several years to beat his alcoholism, but he has been clean and sober for more than six years.

Their life experiences, the tough times and the good times, are part of the reasons, Holland and Althouse believe, that they are able to deal compassionately and empathetically with their clients at Gate House. Holland is the executive director for Gate House while Althouse is the director of development and administration.

There is a Gate House for men in Lititz and another for women in Mount Joy. Both are long-term treatment facilities for people addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, or both. Earlier this year, Gate House received a $250,000 grant from PerformCare for Pennsylvania, a company that provides behavioral health program management for businesses and institutions. The grant is to be used to fund another Gate House residential treatment facility, and it has to be used within a year. Another grant of $20,000 from the Willis and Elsie Shenk Foundation has also been earmarked for a new facility.

Holland and Althouse hoped to open a new Gate House in Akron, at the site of the Boxwood Inn, a B&B on Main Street at the eastern end of town. Althouse appeared before Akron borough council on April 10 of this year to outline his and Holland’s hopes for the Boxwood Inn. It would have about the same number of residents, 26, as the Lititz Gate House. Each resident would have already completed a 21-28-day program of detox and treatment, would be clean and sober upon arrival, and there would be no acceptance for anybody convicted of a sex offense or a violent crime. The average length of stay would be 90 days.

On May 28, Akron borough council held an open meeting at the Akron Fire Hall to determine whether or not the community would accept a Gate House facility. About 100 people attended the meeting. At issue that night was whether or not the town’s zoning ordinance should be changed to allow community transitional housing in an R1 district.

Opponents of the zoning change said they did not want sex offenders walking through the borough. Althouse reminded them that they did not admit sex offenders, or anyone convicted of violent crime, to the program. Property tax was another issue. As a 501(C)(3) non-profit, Gate House is exempt from having to pay local property taxes. Althouse said Gate House would sign a legally binding agreement to pay the full tax on the property’s assessed value. Most of the negative comments, though, revolved around the safety of the borough’s women and children, and there was concern from nearby property owners about a negative impact on their property values.

Hearing many loud complaints and a few quiet words of support over a period of an hour-and-a-half, council in June voted unanimously to decline the proposed change in the zoning ordinance language.

The vote ended any Gate House hopes for an Akron facility.

Two schools of thought emerged from that meeting:

Akron dodged a bullet by denying a home for sex offenders and violent criminals whose presence would have been a threat to women and children, property values and community standards for the sake of men whose poor life choices had made them unfit to live, even temporarily, amongst Akron’s sober and law-abiding citizenry.
Akron missed an opportunity to welcome a treatment facility that has a proven record of salvaging lives broken by the disease of addiction. By all accounts, Gate House has been shepherding male addicts into lives of recovery since 1972 in Lititz, and, in more recent years, in Mount Joy for women. Both facilities enjoy cordial relationships with the communities where they are located.

Was a bullet dodged or was an opportunity missed? To shed light on that question Lititz Record Express reporter Dick Wanner visited Holland and Althouse at Gate House in Lititz. He learned that there’s no cure for addiction, and that recovery is a lifelong process. And he learned that addicts in recovery, as exemplified by the personal stories of Jodi Holland and Scott Althouse, can be highly productive members of society.

After talking at length to Holland and Althouse, Wanner talked individually to a trio of current Gate House residents. Their fascinating and hopeful stories will appear in next week’s paper.

 

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