Champions for Children: Jerry Moe’s Legacy and Alliance with First Lady Betty Ford

Let's Talk Addiction & Recovery Podcast
Happy Children Running

After announcing his retirement, Jerry Moe, the national director of the Children's Program, revisits the incredible impact the program has made for countless children and families. He recounts Mrs. Betty Ford's vision and involvement, and her hopeful words to Jerry all those years ago: "This is really important. We have an opportunity to transform people's lives." And indeed they did. Tune in to hear the full story, the lasting legacy Jerry will leave and where the program is headed next.

Boys and girls can and do heal from this insidious disease.

Jerry Moe

0:00:13 William Moyers
Hello and welcome to a special edition of Let's Talk. Our award-winning podcast series produced and delivered to you by Hazelden Betty Ford. I'm your host, William C. Moyers, and this is a bittersweet moment for me. Sweet because I'm with Jerry Moe, the National Director of the Children's Program at Hazelden Betty Ford. Bitter, well, Jerry, I'll let you explain to our audience why I'm a little bit bitter today.

0:00:38 Jerry Moe
Yeah. I am too. I'm gonna retire.

0:00:41 William Moyers

0:00:42 Jerry Moe
After all these years, yeah. Very hard decision.

0:00:45 William Moyers
How does it feel?

0:00:48 Jerry Moe
I think a lot of different feelings. I'm certainly gonna miss the work. I'm certainly gonna miss the people that I work with. That's for certain.

0:00:56 William Moyers

0:00:56 Jerry Moe
And it's been a time for me to reflect, which I hate to do, William. [Moyers laughs] I never wanna look back, I'm always looking forward. But it really marks the end of a chapter if you will. And looking back and seeing geez, okay, this is what we've done, these are some accomplishments, these are some regrets. But I'm moving forward.

0:01:13 William Moyers
Yeah but a long—but a long chapter, a good chapter. A chapter that's all about children and the fact that children can recover from a loved one's substance use issue, yes?

0:01:24 Jerry Moe
Oh absolutely. I couldn't do this for as long as I have unless I didn't believe that, so. Great message of hope and the best news of all is this work will continue. The Hazelden Betty Ford Children's Program is probably stronger today—

0:01:37 William Moyers

0:01:38 Jerry Moe
—Than it's ever been since the merger.

0:01:40 William Moyers

0:01:41 Jerry Moe
And Helene Photias—

0:01:42 William Moyers

0:01:43 Jerry Moe
Will be the new Executive Director of Children's Programs. We've worked together for almost 15 years.

0:01:48 William Moyers

0:01:48 Jerry Moe
And we've been working towards this day for the last couple of years. So she is ready. And the Program's ready.

0:01:54 William Moyers
Well we've had Helene on some of these Let's Talk podcasts and she's passionate and competent and a leader. She's not gonna step into your shoes because nobody can step into Jerry Moe's shoes. But she'll forge her own path with the Children's Program.

0:02:08 Jerry Moe
But you know the best news of all? She'll be stepping into her shoes.

0:02:11 William Moyers

0:02:12 Jerry Moe
With a real forward-looking vision in terms of how do we grow this? William, you're right, boys and girls can and do heal from this insidious disease. And Helene and her staff are gonna make sure that they do it for more and more boys and girls and families. That's the good news.

0:02:28 William Moyers
Yes indeed. Let's look back on your career—

0:02:31 Jerry Moe
Oh come on!

0:02:32 William Moyers
[chuckles] Well we can do that now, because you are retiring.

0:02:33 Jerry Moe
All right.

0:02:34 William Moyers
What was a highlight of all your years working in this field, Jerry? [Jerry ponders.] Hmm.

0:02:42 Jerry Moe
I'm gonna give ya a simple answer because I have a simple mind. [Moyers chuckles] And we could talk about all of the boys and girls that have healed and all of the wonderful places we've gone. But to me I think the most significant thing is through all these years, working in treatment, which can be a very challenging thing in and of itself, topsy-turvy, ups and downs. I think it's always keeping the why of me doing this front and center.

0:03:08 William Moyers

0:03:09 Jerry Moe
That there's been plenty of times I've been knocked down. Knocked off balance. Maybe get up and not necessarily see it that way. But it's always come back to that why, that purpose. And to know there's one more boy or girl, one more family out there, that desperately needs our help.

0:03:25 William Moyers
Yeah. What motivated you to focus on children and their families? Where does that come from?

0:03:31 Jerry Moe
It comes from me. I mean, it comes from a very simple story, William. I was 14 years old when I started to get help. And it was huge. It changed the entire family. And it changed the landscape, the legacy, of our family if you will. And I didn't realize at the time what a gift I'd been given. A gift that my older brother and my older sister never got.

0:03:55 William Moyers

0:03:56 Jerry Moe
And I was 21 years old. I was getting ready to teach school, elementary school, that's really where I started. And it hit me one day that wow, look at the gift that I have, look how close I am to my mom and my dad. Look how we're all a family in recovery. But then—there's that bittersweet that you started the program out. While I was really grateful, I couldn't help but wonder, how about if somebody would have helped me when I was 7?

0:04:22 William Moyers

0:04:22 Jerry Moe
Or 8 or 9. Would it have changed things in our family earlier? Would some of the trauma that I went through maybe didn't have to take place. So why do boys and girls need to wait? And we make sure at the Hazelden Betty Ford Children's Program that they don't have to wait.

0:04:39 William Moyers
Mmm. Mmm-hmm. So you had those personal experience. That sort of drove you and gave you that awareness. But you also had the professional acumen if you will. I remember meeting you and realizing now that I met you before you came to the Betty Ford Center. Talk about your experience as a professional before you got to BFC.

0:05:00 Jerry Moe
Geez, back in 1977, 1978, doing a children's program.

0:05:06 William Moyers
Aha. [nods]

0:05:08 Jerry Moe
I had the—the blessing of going through the only Twelve Step program they kick you out of because you get too old. [Moyers chuckles] That would be Al-a-teen. So you take that experience, my own healing, going to school, learning first of all how to be a teacher. So what's age-appropriate, developmentally appropriate, how do you do lesson plans? How do you reach boys and girls in their predominant style of learning? So combining those and creating a children's program and looking for a treatment center that would just let me try this out. [Moyers laughs] As a grand experiment.

0:05:40 William Moyers
Mmm-hmm. Mmm.

0:05:41 Jerry Moe
And so, wildly successful, I didn't realize then that there were some programs in other parts of the United States. Including right here in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Children are People.

0:05:52 William Moyers
Mmm. Mmm-hmm.

0:05:53 Jerry Moe
All the way back in the day.

0:05:54 William Moyers

0:05:55 Jerry Moe
So, and then it was writing books and then all of a sudden it was hey there's more programs out there. Would you come and consult with our program, will you sit in it for a couple of days? Tell us what's missing. How do you make it more child-centered. How do we engage the family members? How do we make it fun so boys and girls wanna come back?

0:06:14 William Moyers
Mmm. How did you get to the Betty Ford Center?

0:06:18 William Moyers
What an incredible blessing that whole story was. I had gone to the Betty Ford Center in 1997. To do what I would always do, William, sit in on a program. So sat there for the four days and no one knew who I was, which is good, I'm just a volunteer in the program. So kids would be asking me for stuff. 'Hey, where's the marker? Hey, can you open this for me?' So it blended in perfectly. But then writing a report. And the Betty Ford Center had just received two enormous gifts. So Ronald McDonald Children's Charities gave the Betty Ford Center a million dollars.

0:06:58 William Moyers

0:06:59 Jerry Moe
And then Joan Krock and the family matched it. And so I was thinking honestly, I wrote up the report, handed it in, I couldn't take money for it. So I had them donate the money to the National Association for Children of Addiction.

0:07:15 William Moyers

0:07:15 Jerry Moe
And you now that organization well.

0:07:16 William Moyers
Sis Wenger. Yes.

0:07:17 Jerry Moe
Sis Wenger. We both served on that board together.

0:07:19 William Moyers

0:07:20 Jerry Moe
And I gotta admit flying back home to Tucson, I wondered, geez that must be nice. [Moyers laughs] To have a couple million dollars in the bank to play with. Oh boy, I'd be feeling like monopoly money. Would we do some things with that!

0:07:32 William Moyers
Yes! [nods, laughs]

0:07:33 Jerry Moe
And just events happened. It's amazing how God works in my life all these years. Higher Power. And ended up getting an invitation to come there. And to work there.

0:07:46 William Moyers
And when you got there, there was a Children's Program at the Betty Ford Center. Many people think including me that at one time you were the founder of the Children's Program. To the contrary!

0:07:57 Jerry Moe
Yeah, well, you know, there's a lot of myths about that. People say that I was the first employee there. If only, come on. [Moyers laughs] You know, 'he was always there.' But no, to give it due credit, from the beginning, there was a Children's Program. But it was done periodically. It was done in a piecemeal kind of way. Was it effective? Absolutely. You know, keep in mind that Mrs. Ford when she went to treatment at the Naval Hospital in Long Beach, her family came and participated. Made a huge difference in her recovery.

0:08:27 William Moyers

0:08:28 Jerry Moe
And that's why when the Betty Ford Center opened three weeks from the opening, I had the first Family Program.

0:08:32 William Moyers

0:08:33 Jerry Moe
And a lot of people said, 'Oh wait a year, come on, get your clinical program established.' Absolutely not! Family plays such an important part. And it was those—those gifts, it was the two million dollars, that really got the Center to say we need to do this in a full-time way now.

0:08:47 William Moyers
Mmm. Hmm.

0:08:48 Jerry Moe
And that's when I came.

0:08:49 William Moyers
Mmm-hmm. What year was that?

0:08:51 Jerry Moe

0:08:52 William Moyers
So in '98, you got there. And you sort of baked in if you will the Children's Program into the rest of the mission of the organization. The Betty Ford Center. And you hired staff and you brought it up to a regularly scheduled program, correct?

0:09:05 Jerry Moe
Yeah. It's an interesting thing that whenever you go to a new place, you always have to make the Children's Program fit the existing program.

0:09:14 William Moyers

0:09:15 Jerry Moe
And not be seen as separate but an integral part of the fabric. And so, I needed to learn how everything operated at the Center. And what's the best way to do this. And so, we created a model that, you know, we use to this day. Certainly with fine-tuning and tweaking through the years. Always a growing and breathing and healthy model.

0:09:36 William Moyers

0:09:37 Jerry Moe
But, that's where it started. And it's been an incredible journey.

0:09:40 William Moyers
Talk about Mrs. Ford's role and influence in your life and the Ford family.

0:09:47 Jerry Moe
Well people don't realize today because Mrs. Ford has been gone for so long how actively she was involved in every aspect of the Center.

0:09:55 William Moyers

0:09:56 Jerry Moe
And when I think about the building and you've been there, the Daniels building—

0:09:59 William Moyers

0:09:59 Jerry Moe
—Where the Children's Program is and so that came about in 2002. And Mrs. Ford personally looked at every piece of art that went on the wall, she did the color scheme of the carpets, even some of the frilly things that we had these Architectural Digest magazines coming and taking pictures. [Moyers chuckles] Because it was done—you know, she wanted recessed lighting for little kids so it's not in their face. So she was just brilliant in terms of being so heavily involved. And I asked her one time. I said, 'Mrs. Ford, why are you so involved?' And she looked at me and she smiled and in only the way she could, and she says, 'Jerry, my name's on this place.'

0:10:38 William Moyers
[chuckles] Oh yes.

0:10:39 Jerry Moe
This is really important.

0:10:41 William Moyers
Yeah. [nods]

0:10:42 Jerry Moe
We have an opportunity to transform people's lives. And from her vision, not just the people in treatment, but their family.

0:10:49 William Moyers

0:10:49 Jerry Moe
And their children.

0:10:50 William Moyers
And to do that not just at the Center in Rancho Mirage but also you grew the Children's Program into other cities.

0:10:57 Jerry Moe
We did that. We did and the other point, you're right, we'll talk about that in just a minute. The other point was from the beginning, 'cause it was the primary question I had when I went there. And Mrs. Ford and the Board and the powers that be said, 'We will have this Children's Program open to all boys and girls.'

0:11:13 William Moyers

0:11:13 Jerry Moe
And that come from a family of addiction. 'Cause William, think about the Surgeon General's report that came out 2016. And said that ten percent of the people who need treatment go get treatment. So, if we just had the program for the children of patients, what about all those other boys and girls out there suffering?

0:11:31 William Moyers

0:11:31 Jerry Moe
And so it was always open to other boys and girls. And then we began to expand. And for the history of the Betty Ford Center, we were really the first successful expansion programs outside of the confines of our campus in Rancho Mirage!

0:11:45 William Moyers
Fascinating. Yes! Yes and we—and you expanded to Denver. To Dallas.

0:11:50 Jerry Moe
Expanded—yep. Yep.

0:11:51 William Moyers
Yeah. And so more children could experience that healing Children's Program without having to go to the Center in a desert.

0:11:59 Jerry Moe
Absolutely. And back then, you know, Dallas came first. And the idea was that if you looked at the demographics of the Center, the second most populous place people were coming was from Texas.

0:12:11 William Moyers
Mmm. Mmm.

0:12:12 Jerry Moe
And so with a handful of grateful alums, and businesspeople who adored President Ford and Mrs. Ford, they raised those initial monies that allowed us to get there. In Colorado, it was one of our alums who gave this crazy challenge. And I'm thinking, 'We can't do this!' [Moyers laughs heartily] An alum, a grateful alum.

0:12:36 William Moyers
Hmm. [smiles]

0:12:34 Jerry Moe
And a grateful family. That just adored the Betty Ford Center said, 'All right, I will give you 250 thousand dollars. But here's what I want you to do. I want you to bring the program to Colorado without a staff there—

0:12:49 William Moyers

0:12:50 Jerry Moe
—Without a building there. We'll help with the outreach. And we'll do the program in a hotel.

0:12:56 William Moyers

0:12:57 Jerry Moe
And so, that was the humble beginnings on May the 1st, 2003. And now, they're about to get into a brand new space in the Denver Tech Center. Double what we've had before.

0:13:09 William Moyers

0:13:10 Jerry Moe
So, the growth and it is possible. But it's being able to have a really talented and dedicated staff—

0:13:17 William Moyers

0:13:17 Jerry Moe
—Who are so focused on doing this work. And have the same passion. That I have.

0:13:22 William Moyers
And then in the history of the Children's Program and its expansion, another big milestone if you will is in 2014, with the merger, of the Betty Ford Center, and Hazelden Foundation, what did that mean to the Children's Program, that merger, Jerry?

0:13:40 Jerry Moe
It was always one of those things—my goodness what's gonna happen with all of this?

0:13:44 William Moyers

0:13:45 Jerry Moe
You know, who knows? And all I knew was I needed to continue to do this work. And I wanted to make sure that we could make this merger as seamless as possible. Now it really helped we had a President and CEO, Mark Mishek, who would come to me and say, 'Jerry, you know what the biggest question people are asking about the merger? Are we gonna get the Children's Program?' So I figured that we were in pretty good shape. But it's like anything else. You need to hustle, you need to work hard, every single day. And I need to keep that why right in front of me in order to do that.

0:14:20 William Moyers
Yeah. Yeah. And you have done that. We only have a couple of minutes, Jerry, I'm glad we're gonna have an opportunity to do more podcasts and this is one of several that we're going to do. But let me ask you before we close: how do you—what is your legacy? What's your legacy from your perspective?

0:14:38 Jerry Moe
Well I'd say I see it in a different light. I truly do. When I look back, on my career, the most defining moment. And William I've been blessed there's been a lot of defining moments. [Moyers chuckles] But the most defining moment was being chosen to come to the Betty Ford Center.

0:14:55 William Moyers

0:14:56 Jerry Moe
Now I must admit, I did not completely understand the history.

0:15:00 William Moyers

0:15:00 Jerry Moe
I had never met Mrs. Ford. I had no sense of the love and the spirit that that place has. And the alumni. And so I got caught up in that and really became part of that family. So the way that I see it is Mrs. Ford blessed me. The Board of Directors, the leadership, blessed me. And handed me the keys—

0:15:23 William Moyers

0:15:24 Jerry Moe
—To something that was precious to Mrs. Ford. Real deeply embedded in her heart. And so, for 23 plus years, that's what I've been working on.

0:15:32 William Moyers

0:15:32 Jerry Moe
And we've made a lot of strides. But you know what, it's time for a change.

0:15:38 William Moyers

0:15:38 Jerry Moe
I think for everybody it's time to let the program grow. And so I am now handing the keys and I'm so confident and I'm so excited, and the future of this Children's Program is incredibly bright. And so now Helene Photias and her team are going to take the keys to this, you know, precious entity. And grow it and build it and have it soar to brand new heights.

0:16:04 William Moyers
Well we're certainly glad, Jerry, that you had those keys. [Jerry laughs] That you opened that door. That you made the Children's Program what it was and what it is and set up this organization to make sure that it continues. Not only in your spirit, not only in Mrs. Ford's spirit, but in the spirit of those children who are still to come—

0:16:23 Jerry Moe
Yeah. [nods]

0:16:23 William Moyers
—To the Children's Program at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. Jerry Moe, thank you very much for being with us today.

0:16:28 Jerry Moe
It's great to be with you, William. Always.

0:16:30 William Moyers
Always. [turns to camera] Well, there you go, Jerry Moe. A relentless champion for children. A tireless advocate for families. A beacon of hope for those who feel hopeless in the dark shadow of shame. An inspiration to professionals and a shining star in the history of Hazelden Betty Ford. Jerry Moe, thank you for all you've done for all of us. And all those who are still to come. At Hazelden Betty Ford. [to camera] And thank you all for tuning into this special edition of Let's Talk. Take good care and we'll see ya again.

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