January CEO Letter

Dear Team START,

Welcome to the year 2018! With the dawn of a New Year, we are often filled with great hope and dreams of where the year may take us. It is, therefore, easy for me to envision START at the threshold of a revolution in substance use disorder treatment.

By 2019, we may very well live in a city, state or nation that has fully embraced medication-assisted treatment. There may be widespread compassion for those living with substance use disorder, and government efforts to fund and support those who provide life-saving treatment. With the wealth of research pouring in, including a promising effort to make a 30-day extended release buprenorphine injection, we could even be treating patients in ways we cannot yet foresee.

All of this is possible by the end of 2018. And though I say that it’s easy for me to envision START reaching incredible new heights, the work that it will take to get to those heights will surely not be easy. The road ahead will have no shortcuts, but if we are diligent and work hard every day, the journey just might take us further than we ever imagined.

I said in my previous CEO letter that START’s New Year’s Resolution would be to collaborate so efficiently and effectively as a team that we are able to anticipate and overcome potential roadblocks before they ever become a reality. In addition to this, I would now like to add a second resolution. To truly reach our goals, we must strive, at work and beyond, to eliminate the stigma surrounding substance use disorder, a major aspect of START’s vision. I implore you to make this effort, not just as employees of START, but as the caring group of individuals you are who have chosen to make a career out of serving New York’s most vulnerable citizens.

If we can successfully change minds and hearts in our communities, we could witness a chain reaction that could change the entire course of this epidemic. But we will need to be persistent as the stigma that still exists is strong. As we conclude the celebration of Dr. King’s birthday and reflect on his contributions to our country, it is a sad reality that many of our citizens still lack fundamental civil rights. Not least of these are our patients and adolescents with mental health and substance use disorders, who often face discrimination, alienation and, in many cases, a lack of access to life-saving healthcare.

In the spirit of Dr. King, and in a spirit of compassion fueled by our collective knowledge of the struggles our patients and adolescents face, let us educate everyone we can on the reality of this devastating epidemic. In so doing, we can see to it that the world will remember 2018 as the year the opioid epidemic began to recede.

Again, it will be hard. And changing hearts and minds is just one of many steps that must be taken. But, when it happens, it will trigger a domino effect that will change the course of history. Please be sure to follow along with our social media accounts throughout the year as we work to spread knowledge, and enthusiastically share our posts with those who would benefit from them. Check regularly on our website, as well, for updates and information.

Be on the lookout soon, for example, for announcements regarding a giveaway of free winter hats to all of our patients (as an added bonus, these hats are being made available to staff at cost, which is $8; keep an eye out for more info on this soon!), and watch also for National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week, beginning January 22nd, in which we will focus all week on educating adolescents in a positive manner about substance use disorder.

As in every CEO Column, I encourage you all to submit your responses via email to lantern@startny.org, or to participate in the CEO Open-Door Policy. Please feel free to schedule an appointment with Masie Forbes at 718.260.2917 or email MForbes@startny.org.