Developing Leadership in Reducing Substance Abuse

Field of Work: Developing a new cadre of substance abuse prevention, treatment and policy leaders who come from diverse professions, points of view and racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Problem Synopsis: At the time that RWJF began the program, substance abuse was the number one health problem in the country, yet building a cadre of new leaders in the substance abuse field was difficult for a number of reasons, including that the field was financially unrewarding, and that substance abuse seemed unsolvable to many people considering health careers.

Synopsis of the Work: The RWJF national program, Developing Leadership in Reducing Substance Abuse, sought to inspire emerging talent to achieve a new level of creativity, passion and commitment to the substance abuse field through an intensive mentoring relationship, project development and educational/leadership development opportunities. It also sought to attract new talent to the leadership ranks of the substance abuse field who reflect the growing ethnic and gender diversity found in America's population.

Key Findings/Results

  • From July 2000 to July 2003, 40 people received three-year fellowships during which they designed and executed projects aimed at enhancing the fields of substance abuse prevention, treatment and policy and at developing their leadership capacities. Well-known leaders in substance abuse, academics, and prevention and treatment served as mentors to fellows, guiding them in their projects and their professional development.

  • Judith Schector, MSOD, the program's director reported the following key results:

    • Nearly 33 percent of the fellows made significant career moves since beginning the fellowship.
    • More than 25 percent of the fellows used a portion of their stipend to further their education. Several completed doctoral programs.
    • Fellows created and mobilized community coalitions that prompted changes in policy.
    • Fellows received appointments to task forces and review committees for national-level organizations and institutes such as the Expert Panel at the federal Older Americans Substance Abuse and Mental Health Technical Assistance Center.