Neil Scott Interviews: Tania Bhattacharyya

Tania Bhattacharyya In 2016, Neil Scott, the producer and host of RECOVERY – Coast to Coast visited our beautiful campus and interviewed some of our team members along with care partners and alumnae. His radio show is a two hour nightly national radio talk show dealing exclusively with addiction, with a focus on recovery. In addition, he has been a keynote speaker at numerous national, state and local events and has lectured at America’s leading schools of alcohol and drug studies, including Rutgers University. We are grateful we had the opportunity to get to know him and share all the wonderful life-changing work that we are doing at New Directions for Women. In this segment, he is interviewing, Tania Bhattacharyya, Director of Development and PR at New Directions.

Neil Scott Tania Bhattacharyya

Neil Scott:

Tania Bhattacharyya is joining us in this segment. She is director of development and public relations. She’s been with New Directions for Women since back in 2009. And let’s start with development. It’s a simple word for a very difficult and challenging job, which is to bring in new money. Which some would say, “Why do you have to bring in money? I mean, treatment is not free. It costs money to go through treatment. Why the extra need for capital in a development program?”

Tania Bhattacharyya:

Well, what we found is that women get well when they’re able to stay for an extended period of time – for a long period of time. And with reducing reimbursement rates from insurance, just different variables, people are not able to pay for the full cost of the duration of care they need to fully recover. And so, our average length of stay with our women with children is six months.

Neil Scott:

Wow.

Tania Bhattacharyya:

Right. So that’s six months away –

Neil Scott:

No way insurance is gonna pay for insurance.

Tania Bhattacharyya:

That’s right.

Neil Scott:

No way.

Tania Bhattacharyya:

That’s right. And in many cases, that’s six months away from your job. And so, we believe very strongly about giving women an opportunity to offset the cost of care, so they can stay for however long they need to, to fully recovery for a lifelong recovery journey. Not just a quick fix. We don’t want them to come back in a month. We want them to stay well, and get the tools that they really need for a lifetime of recovery.

Neil Scott:

And the research that I’ve seen over the years is, the longer people stay in treatment – in the initial phase of treatment – because let’s face it, I mean, recovery is a lifelong process. When you leave here, it’s not like you take your car in and it gets fixed. You have to work a program of recovery further down the road. So, the better you’re head start here, the better your chances of experiencing longterm recovery. And you like to do everything you can to make a woman’s stay here as fruitful as possible.

Tania Bhattacharyya:

That’s absolutely right. And we raise money in a variety of different ways. From Repeat Boutique, our thrift store – actually, I don’t wanna call it a thrift store. It’s really a high-end resale boutique, where we get donations from all over Orange County, and all of the funds generated from that store go directly to our scholarship fund. And not only that, but our women can go and pick up an outfit for a job interview, or any kind of professional activity. It really gives back to the women. They’re also able to go and get job skills, retail skills. Actually, one of our alumni started volunteering there one time a week. After she left treatment with us, she actually ended up getting a job at Victoria’s Secret because she was able to put her experience from her time at Repeat Boutique on the résumé. So that was special.

Neil Scott:

You know, I often wonder about treatment programs, and what makes them unique. And obviously, the Repeat Boutique is a very unique aspect. Not only in terms of bringing in money, but being part of the treatment process, if you will. I noticed that volunteers can go, and they can teach résumé writing, and they can do other things, and skills that maybe women don’t have or need to be refreshed. It’s a marvelous way to extend that recovery process.

Tania Bhattacharyya:

That’s absolutely right. And I’ve seen a woman go from coming to the store, being very shy, not wanting to talk to any customers, hiding in the back. And enjoying the processing, because that can be sort of meditative. Towards the end of her treatment, after maybe even 90 days of once a week of working at the boutique, to being a totally different person. Being a greeter, and having a huge smile on their face, and telling people about their recovery, and really being a beacon of hope for all of the customers that come in. Because you never know what somebody walking into that store is going through. And to see someone going through such an incredible transformation can be really healing for somebody else.

Neil Scott:

It’s a room full of roll models, is what it is.

Tania Bhattacharyya:

That’s right.

Neil Scott:

Tania Bhattacharyya is joining us on Recovery Coast to Coast, director of development and public relations. You always work in grant development, I assume. And it’s tough to raise money in this field.

Tania Bhattacharyya:

You know, it is. And this is interesting because New Directions was my first job. I’ve been here for seven years. I started working here when I was a senior at UC Irvine, studying psychology. It’s very interesting, because when I was going through school, even though I was getting a degree in psychology, I didn’t really know about this field – this industry – this helping work, and about recovery. I myself am not somebody in recovery.

I just never had that allergy. I was very blessed. And so, when I came in for my interview, I was applying for the assistant to development director. I was here for a tour, and I saw somebody who was a classmate of mine at UC Irvine. We had had many classes together. We had psych classes together, and she was incredible. We had worked on projects together. She was quite a role model. I mean, she was amazing. And I thought she was my competition for the position. But in actuality, she was there in residential treatment.

And when she saw me, she really opened up to me in that moment, and just said, “I know that we knew each other, but I had a face on. I had my mask on. I really didn’t know how to live a healthy life. And here, I’m learning how to get my life back. I’m learning how to life on a schedule. I’m learning how to make my bed in the morning.”

Neil Scott:

Accountability.

Tania Bhattacharyya:

Accountability. And so, that was a huge eye-opener for me. And since that moment, seven years ago, I’ve really been passionate about getting out into the community and talking to people like I used to be, that have this misconception about what addiction is. Addiction is very much an equal-opportunity destroyer. It affects the rich and the poor, the young and the old. Really everybody from any walk of life.

Neil Scott:

And it’s a full-time job, addiction is.

Tania Bhattacharyya:

It is. It totally is. And so, I get really excited about getting out into rotary clubs, and different volunteer groups, and just different groups of community members, and talking to them about what New Directions for Women is, and what our women are able to go through here.

Neil Scott:

And you’re shining a spotlight, Tania, on the other side of addiction. I did a telethon years ago, and a theme I developed for that was, “the bright side of addiction is recovery”. People, when they think of addiction or alcoholism, they think of the still-sick and suffering. They think of their aunt, or their family member, or their coworker, or the guy on Skid Row, or the addict with a needle in his arm. They don’t realize that there’s another side. That when people find their way into recovery, that the door opens up to an incredible world where anything is possible.

Tania Bhattacharyya:

That’s absolutely amazing, and I think that our alumni – we’ve had over 5,000 women come through our doors since 1977. And our alumni are an incredible set of ambassadors. Not just for New Directions, but for recovery. And we have volunteer events, and our alumni are going to be out doing a back bay clean up. There’s a beautiful nature preserve just a block from our campus, and they’ll be out there beautifying their space. We do much different service work. It’s all about giving back what was so freely given to us.

Neil Scott:

Back to the development area. Is there a way that you see for women – alumni certainly being part of it – to give back personally, financially? I believe, and have always believed, that in this disease, that people who have this disease have an inherent responsibly to support the fight against the disease from which they’re recovering. If you had heart disease, you would probably give financial every year to the Heart Association. If you were a diabetic, it would be the Diabetes Association. Yet, when people find recovery, they go through treatment, they sober up, and they don’t give back financially.

There’s got to be some way that they can do that. And I know a number of treatment programs – and I’m not sure if New Directions for Women is one – that looks at wills and bequests. The reality is that nobody gets outta here alive. And to be able to leave something, a legacy – and every time I look in the newspaper, and I see, “So-and-so has passed away. In lieu of flowers, please send a donation to,” and I would love to see “send a donation to New Directions for Women” or another organization in the field. There’s got to be a way that we can involve more.

Tania Bhattacharyya:

That’s right. And that’s why we’re so into having tours, being very open about all the different ways that people can support us with their time, talent, and treasure. And what we have found is that our alumni and our family members are very supportive. I have seen that, “in lieu of flowers, please support New Directions,” and that is – although, often times, that’s a very tragic incident. It’s very wonderful that funds and resources can be diverted towards New Directions for Women. And our Alumni and families have been very supportive throughout the years. We have the Pamela Wilder Scholarship Fund that we raise money for, so that our women and children are able to offset the cost of their care.

Neil Scott:

Tell our listens who Pam was.

Tania Bhattacharyya:

Pamela Wilder was one of our three founders, and she stood up during a meeting of the Newport Beach Junior League in 1977. Can you imagine? And she stood up in front of this large room of people, and identified herself as a female alcoholic in recovery, and asked for their help in creating a place where women could come and get help with dignity and grace. Because there really was no place in Orange County like that. They really supported her. They rallied behind her, they got the support of the county, and 40 years later, we’ve really been able to stay true to her vision. Even expanding to be able to serve women with children, and pregnant women.

Neil Scott:

And this particular program treats pregnant women in any trimester of their pregnancy.

Tania Bhattacharyya:

Over 100 healthy babies were born to mothers living in our program. The most recent baby being a Christmas miracle, being born right on Christmas. And that’s my most favorite thing, is seeing – literally, I’ve gotten to see babies come live at New Directions just after birth, and then they come back, year after year to our alumni events and I literally get to see them grow up. And there’s nothing that’s a bigger honor than that for me. To see healthy babies born to a sober mom, mom and child learning how to do this recovery thing together, and just living a beautiful life of recovery.

One of the first children that ever lived on our campus – she was also the oldest at the time. She was 11 years old when she came to live at New Directions for Women, and she extremely angry about having to leave behind her friends, and live in this center. Life really turned around for her while she was here. Pamela Wilder’s daughter, Alison, came here with clothes for her, and played with her. We took her down to the local YMCA and played basketball with her. She learned that she was in a safe, stable, caring, tranquil environment for the first time in her life.

Even though she had been held back, due to the tumultuousness that she was in, she ended up graduated valedictorian of her high school. She’s now in law school. This last year – she’s a member of a club at her law school – and she got that club to come in and donate toys for our children. So the circle of life, and the circle of love, just keeps continuing.

Neil Scott:

It keeps growing, and growing, and it really is the bright side of addiction. Recovery, which is ongoing, which is progressive. And once in recovery, anything is possible.

Tania Bhattacharyya:

That’s right.

Neil Scott:

Anything is possible. What have you learned since you’ve been here, Tania?

Tania Bhattacharyya:

Gosh. The biggest thing that I’ve learned, really, is that – and I’ve said it before, but just that addiction is such an equal opportunity destroyer. And when I go out, and I talk about addiction to the community, and I ask people to raise their hands if they have a loved one that’s suffering from addiction, and just about every single person raises their hand. It’s truly an epidemic that is ravaging our country, and I just think it’s so important for people to talk about it. For there to be radio shows, such as yours, so that people can hear about this, and know that they’re not the only one suffering, and there is hope. They don’t have to suffer in silence and shame. There’s hope available.

Neil Scott:

What makes this program unique?

Tania Bhattacharyya:

I think what makes New Directions for Women unique is the fact that we serve women only, and we’ve only ever served women exclusively. We’re able to really approach the needs of women, body, mind, and spirt, holistically. Including those that have children, and those that are pregnant. And that’s such a barrier for women accessing care. What are they gonna do with the children? Often times, women that fall into addiction are single mothers. Or the father isn’t necessarily in the picture. Not always, but sometimes.

  And so, I think that, to have a place where women can come, and have

this village of other women, of loving staff, of caring alumni, to help look after that child and teach sober parenting. It’s just so important. Because we’re breaking that generational, hereditary cycle of addiction. We’re serving these mothers and children so those children don’t grow up to be the next ones in our treatment program. Those children get to grow up and live an entire lifetime of recovery.

Neil Scott:

The program started back in 1977. It’s certainly one of the oldest and most well respected and successful programs in the country for gender- specific treatment. And as you go around the south land, and around the state, around the country, what is it that you want people to know about New Directions for Women?

Tania Bhattacharyya:

I want people to know about New Directions for Women that above all else, we’re a resource for the community. So, we serve women of all ages, pregnant women in any trimester, and women with their children. But because we’ve been around for 40 years, we intimately know the resources not only in our neck of the woods, but nationally. And more recently, even internationally. So just think of New Directions for Women if you have a loved one that is suffering, of if you yourself are suffering.

We have caring admissions counselors that are available literally 24/7 to help. It takes a lot of courage to pick up that phone and ask for help. And so, we just find it very important to make sure if you’re not the best fir for us, that we walk you through the process. We’re gonna get you resources in your area, or in our community, that you can call and we’ll walk you through that process. We’ll call them ourselves. We’ll let them know that you’ll be calling. We’ll make sure you get to where you need to go.

Neil Scott:

And anywhere in the country? Our listeners are in all 50 states. This is not just a California-based – I mean, its California based, but not just a California program. You have people from all over the country – all over the world come here.

Tania Bhattacharyya:

We’ve had actually about five women who have come from outside of the country, and that’s just a huge honor. And I wish that I could see them more often. But we do get around to different national conferences, as a part of our marketing that we do. And so, whenever we’re in another part of the country, we always take care to visit our alumni and our families in that area. To see how they’re doing, take them to a meeting, see if we can be supportive. Just see what they’re up to.

Neil Scott:

Tania Bhattacharyya is joining us tonight on Recovery Coast to Coast. Tell me about partnerships, perhaps with corporations?

Tania Bhattacharyya:

Sure. That’s a big part of what we do from the fundraising side. We just had our big fundraiser of the year. It’s called our Circle of Life Breakfast. It’s at the Newport Beach Balboa Bay Club, and we had almost 400 community members join us. And a big part of why that event is successful is because of partnerships with the community and corporations. We had almost $40,000.00 in sponsorship from different Orange County – and actually national – corporations who find it valuable to support recovery, support this event, be in front of a group of likeminded philanthropic community members, and just support New Directions in that way. And we could not do the work that we do without community partnerships.

Neil Scott:

So it’s all about partnerships and families. And when we say family, it’s not just the nuclear family, but it’s the extended family. It’s the neighbors. It’s the coworkers. It’s all of the people that we deal with on an everyday basis.

Tania Bhattacharyya:

And I’m glad that you brought up neighbors, because people ask us all the time, “Tell me about how you get along with your neighbors. I mean, you’re in a residential area.”

Neil Scott:

The nimbies. “Not in my backyard.”

Tania Bhattacharyya:

The nimbies. That’s right. But we really stretch ourselves to be good neighbors. We have an annual open house every single year. Actually, the first phase of our expansion was to purchase two homes on our street. And if we could have any two homes, all up and down Costa Mesa, there were these two dream homes on our street and we knew we wanted those homes. But they weren’t for sale. But our realtor knocked on the door, and explained what we were trying to do, and said, “We’re with New Directions for Women.” And the family that lived in their house had been to our open house, supported us, loved us, and said, “I would love to sell my house to New Directions for Women.”

  Even though it wasn't on the market at the time. And he reached out

to the neighbor, who was renting out the house. He wasn’t living at the house at the time. But he also got his neighbor to agree to sell the house at the same time. So I view that as a God thing, absolutely. But at the same time, it just shows that we are very good neighbors, and we are part of the Costa Mesa community. And because we’ve been there for 40 years, we’re one of the oldest neighbors. So we always make an effort to get to know our neighbors, be friends with our friends, and be the best at what we do.

Neil Scott:

I got chills when you told that story, because we hear so many of the other stories of recovery homes – sober living places – trying to go into a neighborhood, and the neighbors saying, “No, no. Not here. Not in my backyard.” And to have that complete turnaround – I often say, “There’s no such thing in this field as a coincidence. It’s a god-incidence.” And boy, that was amazing.

Tania Bhattacharyya:

It was truly amazing. I was pinching myself for months after that. I couldn’t believe it. And not just that, but we have self-help groups for the community held on our campus, and neighbors will attend that. So I view us as really a community resource.

Neil Scott:

Absolutely. Tania Bhattacharyya joining us on Recovery Coast to Coast. She’s the director of development here at New Directions for Women. She’s been here since 2009. Not only carrying the message, but sending the message. And the message that recovery works for women and this is a great facility to be a part of that. Tania, thank you so much.

Tania Bhattacharyya:

Thank you so much, Neil.

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