ABC an­chor dis­cusses re­cov­ery at Brace­bridge open house



— Health care pro­fes­sion­als, re­cov­ery sup­port­ers and com­mu­nity mem­bers at­tended an open house Wed­nes­day at Re­cov­ery Cen­ters of Amer­ica’s first re­cov­ery cam­pus in Mary­land at Brace­bridge Hall.

The 24,000-square-foot for­mer MBNA man­sion, lo­cated on 557 acres on the Sas­safras River, is Ce­cil County’s first res­i­den­tial drug treat­ment pro­gram.

Wed­nes­day’s open house fea­tured speaker El­iz­a­beth


Var­gas, co-an­chor of ABC’s “20/20” and a re­cov­er­ing al­co­holic, whose book “Be­tween Breaths: A Mem­oir of Panic and Ad­dic­tion” was re­leased in Septem­ber.

“I never wanted to be known as anx­ious, or an al­co­holic,” she said. “Peo­ple don’t plan on this hap­pen­ing, but it does.”

The award-win­ning TV an­chor and cor­re­spon­dent has trav­eled the world cov­er­ing break­ing news sto­ries, re­port­ing in-depth in­ves­ti­ga­tions and con­duct­ing in­ter­views.

She told the au­di­ence Wed­nes­day that she’s suf- fered from panic at­tacks and anx­i­ety since she was a young girl and her fa­ther was serv­ing in the mil­i­tary in Viet­nam. But, she never drank un­til she had grad­u­ated col­lege and started work­ing, Var­gas said.

“I dis­cov­ered wine soothed my anx­i­ety, so I be­gan to self-med­i­cate,” she said.

Nev­er­the­less, Var­gas said she was able to con­trol her drink­ing for years. At some point though, it es­ca­lated as her anx­i­ety reached the point she couldn’t sleep.

“I was al­ways such a dis­ci­plined per­son, but this was one area I didn’t have dis­ci­pline,” she said.

She went to two dif­fer­ent re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­ters, with seven months in be­tween, while try­ing to re­cover.

“Pick­ing the right re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­ter is very im­por­tant,” she said. “Some peo­ple spend more time de­cid­ing where to go to din­ner than where to go to re­hab.”

She stressed the im­por­tance of talk­ing about ad­dic­tion with fam­ily and friends Dr. Bar­bara Bazron, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for be­hav­ioral health at the Mary­land De­part­ment of Health and Men­tal Hy­giene, speaks at the open house.

and un­der­stand­ing that re­lapse is part of re­cov­ery.

“Don’t give up if you re­lapse,” she said. “Get back on that horse and try again.”

Var­gas said writ­ing her

book was cathar­tic, and while her anx­i­ety isn’t gone, it’s much less fre­quent as she has learned to med­i­tate.

“Spir­i­tu­al­ity is big for me,” she said. “I en­joy meet­ing

with other alcoholics in a room and I’m not ashamed.”

Var­gas noted that the wa­ter­front view from Brace­bridge Hall would be very good for a healthy re­cov­ery.

“This is a great fa­cil­ity,” she said. “It’s a great honor to be here to­day.”

Brian O’Neill, founder and CEO of Re­cov­ery Cen­ters of Amer­ica, opened the cel­e­bra­tion Wed­nes­day with an of­fi­cial rib­bon cut­ting along with Brace­bridge Hall CEO Dr. Bar­bara Kis­ten­macher and Mary­land De­part­ment of Health and Men­tal Hy­giene’s Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor for Be­hav­ioral Health Dr.

Bar­bara Bazron.

Brace­bridge Hall is the se­cond of 15 fa­cil­i­ties that RCA plans to open na­tion­wide, mostly in the north­east­ern part of the United States, which have un­der­served pop­u­la­tions. Brace­bridge cur­rently has 39 beds avail­able, but ad­di­tional ren­o­va­tions will bring the fa­cil­ity up to 108 beds in 2017.

Es­ti­mated cost of care at RCA Brace­bridge is $1,000 a day, or $30,000 a month, with about five beds set aside for those who couldn’t oth­er­wise af­ford it.

O’Neill said the in­spi­ra­tion to take on this ven­ture came from see­ing the high level of

med­i­cal care of­fered to can­cer pa­tients when his own mother was ill, com­pared with the lack of care of­fered to ad­dicts. His goal is to dis­rupt the in­dus­try by chang­ing the avail­abil­ity, qual­ity and de­liv­ery of sub­stance abuse treat­ment.

“It made me ill when I saw the lack of qual­ity treat­ment,” he said.

O’Neill vowed to ed­u­cate in­sur­ance com­pa­nies on the need to pay for 90 days of treat­ment.

“We ex­pect it and we’re go­ing to de­mand it,” he said. “Heroin is a race to the grave at 1,000 mph, so we don’t have time. We have to be re­lent­less and force­ful.”


Vot­ers sign in Thurs­day evening at the county’s early vot­ing site in Elk­ton.


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