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Substance abuse center to host open house Tuesday

Angel House will hold up to 16 women

POSTED: May 22, 2011 10:39 p.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/

Angel House of Georgia founder Angela English hangs curtains in one of the home's bedrooms April 16 as the residential substance abuse facility for women prepares to open.

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The home feels new yet loved, with crisp white walls meeting floorboards that sag at the seams.

It’s fitting, considering this space will soon become home to women seeking a new life free of drug addiction, a new life born in love and faith for the future.

“We want to give them hope,” said Bettye Barbani, the program director at the Angel House of Georgia, a new women’s substance abuse center in Gainesville. “... A lot of them, they’ve been living out in the drug world and they don’t know, they’ve gotten so far away from normal living.”

The center will hold an open house on Tuesday, what will be a culmination of a six-month leap of faith for founder Angela English. With a background in business, English doesn’t have experience in substance abuse treatment. But she’s seen it firsthand while watching her boyfriend of five years struggle and finally seek help.

“I’m not an addict, but I have been able to see the other side of how drugs affect the family,” English said as she leaned back in a chair on the home’s large side porch. “I’ve been affected by it. I’ve been living with someone that’s a drug addict. That’s not pretty.”

In going to treatment meetings with her boyfriend, English met people who told her about the area’s lack of woman-focused residential treatment centers. Many enter treatment in surrounding counties, leaving their families behind for the entirety of the stay, she was told.

Wanting to fill that void and help those who have struggled like her boyfriend, English decided to open a treatment center. She rented a home, hired Barbani to be the substance abuse counselor and brought a psychologist on board to offer emotional counseling.

She’s funded the venture privately. But she’s seeking grants and donations with the ultimate goal of keeping Angel House an affordable option for women seeking help.

The four-bedroom house will hold up to 16 women who will go through a four-month treatment program. Many will stay longer, Barbani and English believe. But in the beginning each of the women will undergo the same intensive one-on-one substance abuse treatment and group counseling sessions.

Once the women go there, they will have already gone through detox and been clean for 30 days, but keeping them sober will be the hard part, said Barbani a 23-year veteran in the field.

“We’re going to be teaching them communication skills. They’re going to be living here and they’re going to get used to that,” she said. “Relationship skills, they need to know how to have healthy relationships. They need to know what to do if they get tempted.”

A house manager will be at the center at nights and over the weekends to make sure the house rules, like random drug screenings and regular meeting attendance, are being met.

English and Barbani hope Tuesday’s open house will be the first step to getting women in the facility for treatment.

They’ve invited individuals from every side of the drug-counseling world — drug court officials, Department of Children and Family Services employees, probation officers and owners of other substance abuse centers.

That’s where their clients will come from, English said. But first, the center needs to build trust with the community.

“We need to show to them and the probation officers and the community what we do,” she said. “That’s why we’re having the open house so they can come here. They can see what we’re doing and they’ve got the trust to send the people that they’re working with to us.”

The home is ready for women who are ready for help, English said. She hopes that soon the bedrooms will be full and new lives will be starting at Angel House.

“I want for them to come here and feel comfortable,” she said. “I want them to feel at home and feel like they’re going to have a new opportunity.”



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