Humble Beginnings Create a Lasting Legacy

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By Sally Frei, Board Member, New Directions for Women Inc.

To help someone recover from addiction you have to have a passion and love for helping people and a foundational understanding of 12 steps.  I believe this to be true about New Directions for Women. Founded in 1977 New Directions paved a hard road of struggles and setbacks through the years but it has overcome these challenges and has retained the mission and vision of the original founders Pamela Wilder, Muriel Zink, and Marion Schoen.

In 1977 Pamela Wilder was a recovering alcoholic and a member of the Junior League of Orange County. With a lack of affordable, accessible and local treatment programs for women in Orange County Wilder saw a need and had a vision to help others like her find recovery and stay sober. She publicly and courageously asked the Junior League of Orange County for help and support in creating this program and was joined by Muriel Zink and Marion Schoen. Together these three innovators created the legacy that is New Directions for Women today.

At inception the research and theory behind addiction treatment hadn’t focused on women and hadn’t given concrete methods of care. With no formal training these women seemingly were flying blind but they intuitively knew the course to take in giving women the hope and treatment necessary to ensure recovery from addiction.

Through the 1980s, New Directions offered a peer-oriented social model of addiction recovery services.  As treatment models evolved managed care came to be the prominent form of health insurance and treatment in the 1990s and negatively changed the definition of how addiction should be treated.   During this time managed care insurance companies believed that treatment programs with lengths of 14 days or less were substantial enough to “cure” people of their addictions. With these treatment programs not being long enough to break the cycle of addiction many people continued to suffer with their disease and a great number of programs were adversely affected.  During this time as patient numbers decreased in treatment centers across the U.S. many centers fell apart and were forced to close.  New Directions however was able to weather the storm and survive, during this time there were seven executive directors in seven years.  With so much turmoil New Directions was being held together by the commitment of the board of directors, volunteers, and alumni helping them stay true to their vision and mission.

In recent years New Directions has emerged with a greater strategic focus and brought clinical expertise to their mission.  In 2004 Becky Flood, MHS LCADC, NCACII, BRI II was hired as Executive Director and CEO. Flood came to New Directions with an energizing spirit and team of experts.  Flood instituted the development of an executive management team with a focus on marketing and development to broaden New Directions’ donor base.

Flood helped to bring Early Childhood Development Services in 2005 to the New Directions campus as well as becoming accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) in 2007.

The current staff at New Directions has a strong clinical background and performs a variety of duties all focused around helping patients through their treatment and moving forward in their recovery. Quality Improvement Officer Maurice Wilson PhD CADC II who joined New Directions in 2004 has over thirty years of experience in addiction treatment and research and has been instrumental in the recovery of patients. Virginia Mendiola ensures New Directions front office runs efficiently, Eyal Avidror is the executive chef at New Directions and ensures patients are eating properly while in their treatment program and Ann Premazon has worked diligently on the redesign of the New Directions website and whose family has been positively impacted by New Directions services.

The New Directions Board of Directors have also continued the passion and love for helping people in the fight against addiction and bring a variety of skill sets and depth of knowledge to the organization.  The current board is comprised of founding board members and long time supporter such as Faith Strong who has lived a life devoted to breaking the cycle of addiction. Faith brought Alcoholics Anonymous to the Soviet Union in 1986 and has been a continual contributor to New Directions for over thirty years with gifts totaling more than $3 Million dollars. The board of directors is also comprised of legacies such as Jim Wilder the son of Founder Pamela Wilder and other influential board members such as Dan Carracino, Karen Lutz, Carol Pickup and Judy Elmore who are all passionate about recovery and have deep roots in both supporting New Directions and the Orange County community at large.  In addition to the Board of Directors, New Directions Clinical Committee has addiction experts and devoted supporters such as Ruth Stafford, PhD who lends her experience as a psychology professor at UCI.

The history of helping women overcome chemical addiction remains the mission at New Directions for Women, with more than thirty years of service we look forward to another thirty years of recovery and sobriety.

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