Looking Back on Four Decades of Substance Abuse Treatment at The GateHouse

The GateHouse Through the Years: Looking Back and Looking Forward

Looking Back at Over Four Decades of Substance Abuse Recovery Services as We Look Towards the Future of The GateHouse

The legacy of The GateHouse was built by a small group of men and women determined to create a support system for members of their community suffering from substance abuse. The group grew from a few founding members to a team that today continues to carry out that mission.

Two members of that team include two of our longest-serving board members: Dr. Kathy Gregoire, LSW, Ph.D., retired professor of social work at Millersville University, and Dr. John Conahan, LCSW, CADC. Ph.D., Associate Professor at Kutztown University.

Both share a unique perspective on the history of The GateHouse, as well as how it’s evolved over the years. And both believe that the common thread between the impact The GateHouse made then and now is rooted in the devotion of the staff and volunteers who serve.

Perseverance and Grit Propelled The GateHouse from a Single Halfway House to the Substance Abuse Treatment Center it is Today

Dr. Kathy Gregoire
Dr. Kathy Gregoire

The founding members of The GateHouse first connected through Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Together, they recognized the need for a halfway house in the Lancaster area.

“It was a very grassroots effort. Very hands-on,” said Kathy. “The Board members did all of the work. They painted the house, refurbished it—everything. They were incredibly dedicated.”

Kathy remembers the early days of The GateHouse. She became involved with the organization in 1979, shortly after its founding.

“The staff and team just kept taking steps forward, one thing at a time, and the program grew,” she said. “Their initial focus was alcohol abuse and supporting men and women in AA. Then it evolved to drug abuse and supporting those in NA, Narcotics Anonymous. Later, we incorporated mental health services to take on people with multiple diagnoses such as substance abuse and depression.”

Pioneering a Path for Women to Seek Substance Abuse Treatment

In the 1980s, The GateHouse recognized the need not just for expanded services to treat various types of substance use disorder, but for greater access to care for women across the board. As a result, The GateHouse decided to create a women’s house—a revolutionary step at the time.

As a social worker who made house calls throughout the community, Kathy understood the real need for female recovery services first-hand.

“People didn’t think, or want to admit, that women struggled with addiction, too,” Kathy said. “Before The GateHouse, there were very few treatment options available to women suffering from substance abuse, which led many to suffer alone.”

The GateHouse Eventually Expanded its Services Further to Support Other Client Needs that Weren’t Being Met

Dr. John Conahan
Dr. John Conahan

In 2004, John Conahan joined the board alongside Kathy and the other members. A few years into his tenure, John realized that in order to continue to serve, The GateHouse needed to grow.

“It became clear that we needed to grow our services to sustain ourselves financially and continue to be there for the clients who needed us,” John said. “‘What services should we offer? How big should the organization become? What is a healthy financial growth plan?’. These were the questions I started asking.”

John and the other board members developed a strategic plan, putting systems in place to grow the organization and make treatment for substance use disorder more accessible throughout the community.

First, they worked towards and achieved CARF accreditation, an international accreditation for rehabilitation facilities and service standards.

“The CARF accreditation gave us even more legitimacy which helped us grow,” John said.

Next, John and The GateHouse board started looking at outcome data to learn more about their clients, better understand their needs, and discover what their lives looked like after treatment. As they piled through the data, John said a trend emerged.

“We saw that clients leaving The GateHouse needed transitional living services,” he said. “They needed a safe place to live and continue to get better. So, we bought a home in Lititz and turned it into our first transitional living home.”

The Lititz transitional living home was a success. It grew from one home to a transitional living program that led to The GateHouse opening a second home in Mountville. The GateHouse has since received a number of grants to continue its work and maintain the homes.

John and the board moved next to add additional services including outpatient, intensive outpatient, and partial hospitalization. The idea was to further support their transitional living clients in recovery.

“We went into the outpatient business in 2010,” John said. “It’s an area of our model that we’re still growing. So far, we’ve been able to grow it and provide a lot of added support to our transitional living clients and those leaving one of our recovery houses.”

Around this time, John and the board also recognized that growing the organization and fulfilling their mission wouldn’t happen by simply adding more services. For some victims of substance use disorder, cost remained a barrier. Fundraising presented a large, untapped opportunity to help more clients afford treatment services. So, John and the board began fundraising.

“In recent years, we’ve gotten involved with Lancaster County’s Extraordinary Give, applied for grants, and reached out to the community for support to make our services more accessible to everyone who needs them,” he said. “Fundraising has proven very effective for us.”

And most recently, The GateHouse implemented its third residential care facility; a beautiful home in Marietta for women in early recovery. Restoring the home and opening the The GateHouse at Riverview Tower was a collaboration with the state and, so far, it’s made a big impact.

The GateHouse is Building its Future with the Same Devotion it Used to Build its Very First House

The next chapter of The GateHouse legacy is being written now by a deeply dedicated team focused on removing barriers to treatment and treating the whole client.

“There are many services we want to bring in and many more substance abuse victims we know we can help,” John said. “But to do that, we first have to attract more staff who share our mission and passion to serve men and women with substance abuse disorder in our community.”

John and Kathy both believe that by offering opportunities for professional development and shining a light on why The GateHouse is a place people want to work, they can grow a team that can continue the legacy.

A large long-term goal is to expand on the work The GateHouse has already started and provide a full continuum of services to treat the whole client.

“The GateHouse isn’t just a place to stay in early recovery,” John said. “It’s a social approach to delivering our services and other resources our clients need for continued recovery. Our clients often need help with employment, daycare, credit, and housing. Addiction doesn’t live in a vacuum. We need case managers and the resources for continued follow-up so we can also help with long-term, sustained recovery.”

Programs and services that support women suffering from substance use disorder are also a major focus for The GateHouse in the years ahead.

“We’re exploring services that would house women in early recovery with their children,” John said. “There are a lot of hurdles we’d need to navigate to create this type of program. But we know that one of the barriers for women seeking treatment is the lack of safe childcare. If we can remove that barrier, imagine how many more women we can support.”

The GateHouse owes its success to the men and women who have worked hard for more than 40 years to make a difference in the lives of those suffering from substance use disorder.

“Over the years, I’ve felt so proud of the work we’ve done at The GateHouse,” Kathy said. “We’ve had incredibly committed board members and staff who have made good decisions to keep the organization stable, yet always maintained a willingness to take risks to get people what they need.”

John agrees.

“Our services and homes represent the dignity of the people we serve,” he said. “Our mission is to be that bridge back to society and give people a safe place to continue to recover. That’s what we’ve done and will continue to do. There’s a lot of pride associated with that by both the Board and our staff.”

When you and your loved one are ready to discuss a treatment plan for long-term substance abuse recovery, our team will be here ready to support you on your journey. The GateHouse offers services for substance abuse recovery with locations throughout Lancaster County, PA. We’d love to help you or a loved one with the next step in recovery. Reach out to us today!


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