What’s New at High Watch?
Expansion is On the Horizon
We are helping more people than ever at High Watch. We see in the news every day that addiction has become an epidemic and we are bursting at the seams helping record numbers of guests as they work toward recovery.
To help our staff deliver care in a comfortable and compassionate environment now is the time to expand our campus – and our horizons. We are embarking on an ambitious plan to help more individuals in their recovery.
We will soon break ground on a new 44,000 square foot building. We are adding critical space for our clinicians and twelve beds for detox. Right now, we have no choice but to turn people who need detox away because we don’t have the resources to care for them.
The worst outcome in these situations is that individuals with an addiction see this is the barrier they’ve been looking for. It becomes a reason not to go forward with their recovery and in the saddest cases we have lost people before we’ve even had the chance to save them.
We were the nation’s first addiction recovery center founded on the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous. On their first day setting foot on The Hill, Bill Wilson and Marty Mann discovered what our guests and alumni now know. Bill Wilson knew immediately that the spiritual atmosphere here is “so thick, you could cut it with a knife.”
Once this project is complete we will move forward in the decades to be best able to achieve the original mission of Bill Wilson, Marty Mann, and Sister Francis.
Annual High Watch Picnic 2018
Join MLB All-star Darryl Strawberry, who will be our keynote speaker, for what is always a fun-filled event for the entire family. You can get tickets by clicking HERE.
Golf Outing, September 25th, 12:30 start
Join us for another outstanding event. This year we will be at the beautiful Club River Oaks in Sherman. You can click HERE for more details..
Restoring the “Farm” in High Watch Farm
In early 2018, High Watch purchased over 100 acres of property across the street on Carter Road. What we are doing with that property is amazing. Within the next year, High Watch will be home to a fully working farm that will be the centerpiece of our already-functioning Intensive Outpatient Program. It is currently home to a men’s IOP program and we will soon begin a program for women on property we purchased right next to our current campus.
Seven acres of land were cleared as a horse and sheep pasture to add to the existing pastures. Additional land had to be prepared and tilled for the garden and soil needed to be tested and treated for both the garden and the pastures.
Jeff McKay, our HOPE Program Director who is running the farming operation, has faced the challenge head on. “This is new to all of us, so there has had to be research done on every project, every step of the way. We have a local farmer helping us who has been farming his entire life. Hank works with us about sixteen hours per week and has been invaluable as a teacher and a mentor.
Production of honey, beeswax, and other honey based products, along with chicken, eggs, wool, and fresh produce is already under way. Horse stalls will soon be complete and they will become the home for the horses that will support our equine therapy program.
Jeff believes the apiary (beehives) is one of the most interesting things we are doing. “The research, the learning, and the work are all incredibly fascinating. Honey bees are amazing insects from which we can learn a lot about ourselves.”
The garden is also turning out to be one of the more challenging projects. Jeff, extended guests and IOP guests are studying bio-dynamic gardening. They are exploring many products that they can make from their crops such as teas, spices, dried herbs, and many other vegetable-based products. The farm will also be supplying the High Watch kitchen with fresh vegetables and will stock the soon-to-open farm stand.
Soon on the horizon are greenhouses and a sugaring operation for the production of maple syrup.
Jeff believes the program has been excellent for extended guests. “First and foremost, it gives them a sense of purpose, which is so very important in early recovery. It builds confidence, self-worth and self-esteem. They learn teamwork, responsibility, accountability, and conflict resolution. They are learning to care, help, and watch out for each other, and they are learning all new skills that they can be proud of and take with them. Working with your hands, with animals, and the earth is very healing and very conducive to good recovery.”
Last year High Watch installed an impressive and therapeutic 35-foot-high ropes course.
The ropes course is an opportunity for guests to work through many issues such as fear, courage, confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth. They experience the opportunity to take personal risks without fear of ridicule or retribution and receive only encouragement and support. They learn the value of teamwork and how to trust others. The course will be used by groups with their therapists using evidence based curriculum. And of course the ropes course will be used for recreation.
All staff who assist with the course must receive forty hours of training to ensure that the course is operated safely and that all of our guests who use it get the most out of it.
Staff Spotlight: Bev Waczek
We took some time to speak with Beverly Waczek, PA-C, about her work at High Watch as a Physician Assistant. As you’ll read, Bev has had a fascinating career in addiction medicine and brings tremendous experience and knowledge to our guests.
Q: What got you into medicine in the first place?
Bev: I pursued a degree in Veterinary technology and really always liked medicine. It got to the point where it was really difficult working with the animals because I was a little too soft. I was going to go to veterinary school and then I decided against it. I met a Vietnam veteran who was a medic who went back to the Physician Assistant school at Duke University the second year that the program opened. Then I learned about PAs and I thought, ‘oh, okay this could be something that I would be interested in.
Q: Why did you choose addiction medicine?
Bev: My first job was with Montefiore Medical Center on Riker’s Island. I worked for the Department of Corrections and was there for about 8 years. I took care of inmates where I did Primary Care – primarily emergency room work, suturing, lacerations things like that.
I realized how many people were incarcerated because of addiction issues and crimes like armed robbery to support their addiction and I just sort of became involved with that. I really realized how many people had addiction issues and were in jail because of it rather than getting the treatment they needed.
Q: What was the end game for those inmates with addiction? So you do time, you get out, then what?
Bev: Go back to the same thing primarily as most of them didn’t go into treatment afterwards. What is different now is that they have alternatives to incarceration. Even here in Connecticut I think it’s gotten really much better is trying to get people out of jail and get them into treatment programs.
Q: What do you think your role is in a guest recovery?
Bev: It’s probably more educational. I’m teaching them about addiction, helping them explore the reasons why they continue to use and hopefully helping them establish either with their therapist or with me, really, just some sort of framework for recovery.
Q: Talking about a framework for Recovery what does that mean to you?
Bev: It starts with meeting the guest where they’re at because everybody’s recovery is a little different and their needs are different. So, trying to explore their baseline is what needs to be done first. Then we start branching out. Whether that’s medical care, whether it’s psychiatric assessment, ongoing therapy and medication management to address the underlying depression and or anxiety disorder mood disorder.
I think it’s that sort of the foundation that’s the start of treatment. I really enjoy helping them learn how to identify their feelings and what goes on when they feel the need to use. Giving them the tools to do that on their own, not just while here in treatment.
Q: Where did you work before you came to High Watch?
Bev: I worked at what was called the turning point in Beacon, New York. It was part of St. Francis Hospital and was a free-standing Inpatient Detox and Rehab unit. I did that every other weekend in 12-hour shifts for years just because I loved it. After I left Riker’s Island I went to Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx where I actually did Inpatient Detox coverage and I worked at their day treatment center. After they transitioned out of acute care hospital or partial hospitalization they came there. So, it was more about teaching social skills and that sort of thing. Rehab to sort of get them back into the community.
Q: What makes High Watch special?
Bev: I’m not sure but first it’s the energy of this place. I mean, when I first met with Jerry and interviewed with him I drove up here and I got out of the car and I felt like the sort of energy vortex like you do in Sedona, Arizona which some people have apparently also felt and I think their approach to treatment is really gentle.
And I think everybody has a really good attitude here. Everybody loves the work that they do and I think that we all see a real need to be there for our guests. Let them know they’re not alone that there any other people going through this.
I’m glad that I’m here. I’m glad that I’m actually a part of this. I’m not sure how it all works but it all works here and this is probably one of the most relaxed addiction treatment facilities that I’ve ever worked in. Again, I think it has to do with the staff here that their ability to connect with a population that are at a crossroads. They know the guests’ needs and I think we just do a really good job. They’re knowledgeable and I think they’re here with the intent of supporting the guest rather than just being here for a job.
Q: How do you think having so many employees who are in recovery impacts outcomes for guests?
Bev: I think the guests feel somewhat relieved, and their families, too. I think there’s still such a Negative stigma to mental health and addiction issues. It helps to know how widespread it is and to see that it doesn’t have to be the way it is right now for you and that there is a future. To see that you do have the ability to make the changes to maintain abstinence and to live your life in a sober manner. To know that there are options, that there are people that will hire you with addiction history. I think it’s really crucial to see that.
Q: So you’re dealing with people every day who are at a difficult spot in their lives. They’re experiencing stress which projects on you. How do you deal with that stress and how it impacts your life?
Well I sort of seek out support of staff, my colleagues, if need be because I think they kind of understand and have probably felt some of the things that I felt. I’ve been doing this a long time, too. So, I have gotten to the point where you know people behave certain ways, that that’s their character or that’s their illness, and I think it’s really important to accept that as a provider, rather than being provocative and instigating. I think just hearing people’s ideas has allowed me to disperse it. Somehow for me letting them talk and just reassuring people. Some days it’s a little bit tougher than others, but I think we basically just talk about the stress with each other.
Q: How do you define successful recovery?
Bev: Incrementally. I think recovery is an ongoing thing, right? Life is ever-changing. So, I think recovery is always changing. If a person is able to maintain their abstinence from their drug or drugs of choice and if they continue to grow in a positive way and learn and accept that things are not always going to be peachy, the ability to take those negative things and those stressors and manage them improves.
Q: What are some things that guests and their families should remember in their recovery?
Bev: How the process works and that it takes some time to make the changes and to feel the confidence. I think sometimes family, partners, and loved ones think that those that suffer with addiction can just hit a light switch and turn it off and it’s really not the way it works.
Alumni Dinner – Coming to a restaurant near you!
Our first off-site alumni dinner will be held on July 26th at the G.W. Tavern in Washington Depot.
Keep an eye out for more upcoming events in the West Hartford area and in Fairfield County.
EMAIL Alumni Relations Coordinator Alyssa Curran for more information!
Our First Annual 5k Road Race
There will be prizes and raffles and fun.