30 years ago there existed little research, let alone much discussion, of what it was that women needed from their treatment experiences. Few people ever thought or spoke about what is was that could be done to address gender specific issues that arise from addiction, with the possibility of using that knowledge to improve outcomes. But all that has changed recently as research into gender specific treatment has begun to flourish. Findings of studies with animals have shown significantly different biological mechanisms between males and females when it comes to addiction, while human studies have found, for example, that the female menstrual cycle is a determinant in cocaine craving and that female cocaine abusers have higher craving scores and greater depressive symtomology than men. Partly in response to the research, the number of centers nationwide devoted to treating just women has surged, with entrepreneurs opening new facilities and existing centers creating gender specific programs. The new centers and programs are also a response the vastly greater number of women who are actively seeking treatment. One institution that began to notice a surge in demand from females for addiction treatment services was Hazelden, which over a seven year period from 1998 to 2005 saw a four-fold rise in female admission inquiries to 400 a month from 100 a month. â€œWe saw a need here, thereâ€™s no question, says Hazelden CEO Ellen Breyer. â€œAnd we decided to do something about it.â€
The fruit of Hazeldenâ€™s gender specific treatment efforts will be there for all to see this fall, when the venerable foundation will open its new Womenâ€™s Center, an $11.5 million buildout that is the first major expansion of patient facilities at the main Center City campus in twenty years. The Womenâ€™s Center is Phase I of an $18.5 million plan to expand gender specific treatment, with a $7 million second phase consisting of extensive renovations to the existing Lilly womenâ€™s unit. In addition to the $18.5 million being spent, $500,000 is being earmarked for program development, while another $1 million is planned for women patientâ€™s aid. The new two-story Womenâ€™s Center will be home to two 22-bed units, which along with the renovation of the adjacent Lilly space, will accommodate 88 female patients in primary and extended care. Overall, Hazelden says that the new gender specific initiatives will result in a nearly 38 percent increase in the centerâ€™s female treatment capacity, marking the opening of a â€œcomprehensive, cohesive Womenâ€™s Recovery Center that will provide a nurturing environment for women, from admission to continuing care.â€ Certainly, Hazelden is no stranger to womenâ€™s treatment, having opened its Dia Linn program for females at a facility in Dellwood, MN, fifty years ago. Development EVP Anne Hovland, who raised $100 million for Minnesota Public Radio before joining Hazelden in 2002, says that a multi-disciplinary approach will be taken to treating women at the new center, moving beyond just the 12-Step-based modalities for which Hazelden is recognized as the pioneer. â€œKey issues like sexual abuse and eating disorders have strong links to women with addiction problems, so we will have the capability to address them.