Pat Weston-Hall, MSW
Rock Creek, Ohio
On a sunny Thursday morning in rural Ohio, Pat Weston-Hall walks a circular route through the halls of Glenbeigh, a treatment center with residential, inpatient and outpatient services. She is the CEO of the facility, and she recognizes most of the patients on sight. She also understands their stories.
“It’s 10 o’clock,” Weston-Hall says to a young man listening to rock music piped through the speakers of the empty lecture hall. “You’re on your way to group now?”
He scrambles away with a bounce in his step.
“Because I have a clinical background, I’m really connected to everything that goes on,” she says. “I go to clinical staff meetings every day, and I have an open-door policy. Patients can stop in for whatever reason.”
Weston-Hall herself is in recovery and reached the 40 year milestone recently. As CEO, she knows clinical science and the recovery business continue to change over time. Long-term, the best strategy is to always remain focused on the patient experience as a way to stay true to the mission, she says.
Glenbeigh has admitted more younger individuals in the past five years, Weston-Hall says, so the program now includes elements that resonate with that population—hence the rock music in the lecture hall.
“We play music before and after lectures, and we have music therapy groups,” she says. “We’ve also added art therapy and more exercise classes.”
The center has also recruited specialized staff who are trained to care for 18 to 25 year-olds and can help monitor their activities. As a group, they tend to be a bit more disruptive than their older counterparts because of a different maturity level, she says. In many cases, the patients are arriving in treatment with ultimatums from their parents and might have those additional conflicts to work through as well.
“Initially they were two steps ahead of us,” Weston-Hall says. “We were used to the average age of a patient being late 30s, but now we might have 50 patients between the ages of 18 and 25.”
She says many of them arrive addicted to heroin, and the unrelenting epidemic is truly concerning to her. She’s seen various trends peak over the years, but heroin use is an ongoing issue that has far reaching impact on families and communities.
Glenbeigh remains a proponent of the 12 Step program, which Weston-Hall believes is the most powerful tool anyone can use to sustain long-term recovery. Success among patients is measured by abstinence, she says, but across the industry there isn’t a true consensus on how to measure outcomes.
“One of the challenges with outcomes is that a lot of people leaving the program aren’t going back to the same living situation or change their phone number—in some cases we advise that because of past drug use,” she says. “So it is challenging sometimes to follow up in this field. It’s important to contact family as well as the patient for follow-up.”
She says other aspects of recovery are also measurable such as lifestyle changes, reconnecting with loved ones, improved quality of life and avoiding trouble with law enforcement. The industry as a whole needs to do a better job of collecting that information, too, even though it’s a huge job, she says.
Alumni activities can also provide some data on outcomes. For example, Glenbeigh hosts an annual alumni picnic each July that draws as many as 700 former patients as well as a variety of social events near the outpatient centers. In addition, the online patient portal, email blasts and newsletters help to maintain the connection.
Glenbeigh which is an affiliate of the not-for-profit Cleveland Clinic health system has expanded four times since 1994, growing from 50 to 114 inpatient beds and adding 58 extended care beds, six outpatient centers and 28 sober living beds. Weston-Hall says to meet the needs of communities nationwide, providers must expand services and build up a larger workforce in the treatment industry.
“Our salary structure is attractive here at Glenbeigh, but as an industry, it’s not necessarily attractive for college students who are looking to make a decision on a career,” she says. “It’s up to us, those currently working in the industry, to make addiction treatment a rewarding profession.”
Enhanced tuition reimbursement packages, comparable benefits and wages and more advancement opportunities will help future professionals consider addiction treatment a lifetime career choice, she says. Her own recovery experience influenced her decision to work in the field, and Weston-Hall believes supporting those in recovery with funding and opportunities to move toward a clinical career can only enhance what treatment centers have to offer.