February 13, 2016

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Halfway house to close

Published 10:05 am Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Recent budget cuts are causing Bluegrass, a mental health agency based in Lexington, to close one of its two residential substance abuse programs.

BETA Halfway House in Franklin County will shut its doors later this month after about 20 years of service under Bluegrass and send seven people home or to another treatment center.

David Hanna, interim president and CEO of Bluegrass, said BETA and the Schwartz Center, a residential substance abuse program in Lexington, are both losing money, so the company couldnt afford to keep both open.

He said at the Schwartz Center, people participate in a very intense program and live there full time to become sober and learn how to manage cravings.

BETA, located on Wash Road near the Anderson County line, was most recently used as the next step or halfway house for people who werent quite ready to go home. Patients lived there, but looked for jobs and slowly transitioned back home.

It served a small number of people, and were very proud of the program, Hanna said. But when we had to look at how to address the financial situation we couldnt continue to offer both programs.

The decision was made at the Jan. 17 board meeting and goes into effect 30 days after that, Hanna said.

The nine staff members that work at the halfway house were given layoff notices, but Hanna said he expects some will be transferred elsewhere.

We are working to try to find places to move people, Hanna said. Its very hard to close a program. We had good staff there, and we believed in the value of the service we provided.

Hanna said another option that remains for people is Shepherds House in Lexington, but there is always a limited amount of space.

There is more demand for substance abuse programs than there are resources, Hanna said.

Kentucky has a very significant substance abuse problem.

When Bluegrass first opened BETA, it operated as a short-term residential substance abuse program for men and women, but shortly after that switched to only serving men.

That change opened up extra space in the house, which is when the halfway house was opened.

David Hayden, regional substance abuse program director for Bluegrass, said he didnt know the exact date the womens program was moved, but it was only served both genders a short period of time.

For years, the house offered short-term residential treatment, which was generally an intense 28-day program where people were constantly monitored so they could be weaned off drugs, Hayden said.

Then if people still needed assistance, they transferred to the halfway house and stayed as long as necessary to transition back to living on their own.

It gave people an opportunity to use their skills in the real world setting, Hayden said.

But a few years ago, Hayden said, the short-term residential program was closed and the halfway house went from eight beds to 16.

Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate said before it was only a halfway house, he sent many people there and saw plenty of success.

It was one of the most effective alcohol treatment programs, Wingate said.

Alcoholism is harder to control than anything.

He said it was a big blow when it changed to only offering a halfway house because it worked so well for alcoholics.

Commonwealths Attorney Larry Cleveland also said the program was a valuable resource, but they used it less after the residential treatment side was eliminated.

It was a problem because we had to find another 30-day primary program, Cleveland said. Its like your favorite store closes and you have to find somewhere else to shop.

He said its bad news whenever a program like BETA is shutdown.

We had a lot of success with that facility, Cleveland said.