Caring heart and plenty of stamina
Vail, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” A heart-shaped glass candy dish filled with almonds sits on Kathy Kopf’s desk at Valley View Hospital’s Youth Recovery Center.
An athlete who has completed 25 triathlons wouldn’t have it any other way.
On top of her computer, a small yellow sign reads, “Don’t suffer in silence.”
Those words speak volumes for adolescents in the center’s inpatient chemical dependency program in which she directs.
“I’m very involved,” Kopf said. “I went running with them this morning.”
If she’s not taking an early-morning jog with the center’s teens, Kopf might take them out for haircuts or go to lunch in the hospital’s cafeteria. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Youth Recovery Center, which is the only facility of its kind in the state.
“Treatment is very difficult,” Kopf said. “We want them to be successful. There’s such an opportunity for improvement.”
Kopf started out in the healthcare industry as a pediatric nurse practitioner, receiving her undergraduate degree from Boston University. She moved to the valley in 1970, and once ran a private practice at Glenwood Medical Associates.
“Addictions weren’t even on my radar,” she said.
Kopf started working with the Youth Recovery Center 17 years ago as a part-time nurse. Five years ago, she became director of the facility, which now staffs nurses 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“I think that anybody who works in this unit has to be the kind of person who can be vulnerable, and can grow and learn about themselves,” Kopf said. “You’re the tool on their path of personal growth. I think a lot of we do is planting seeds.”
Kopf has two grown children, ages 26 and 32, of her own. She was thankful they did not suffer problems with drug and alcohol that many teens face in adolescence.
“That made me appreciate their activities and how we related even more,” she said. “I felt very blessed. That made me say thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Youth Recovery Center clients battle addictions ranging from alcohol to methamphetamine, Kopf said. As a member of the county’s Meth Task Force, she wants to reach out to those facing the devastating effects of addiction to the powerful drug.
“We’re seeing a lot of meth,” she said. “But people should know it’s not untreatable. Don’t even think it’s untreatable.”
Kopf’s community involvement also extends to her work with The Advocate Safehouse Project, an organization that offers assistance for abused women. For the last two years, she has served as president of the board.
“It’s a never-ending mission for women,” she said. “It’s a real commitment for me to help provide a safe haven and options for women.”
Amy Levenson, the center’s referral and development coordinator, said working with Kopf has been motivational.
“It couldn’t be better,” she said. “She’s an inspiration, and she’s not a micro-manager. I like that combination.”
And what do the teens at the center think of Kopf?
“They say she runs faster than they do,” Levenson said, with a laugh.
Twenty-five triathlons might have a little something to do with that.