The Monsignor who went to war on the war on drugs

Monsignor OBrien

The Archdiocese of New York has announced the death of Msgr William O’Brien, a co-founder of Daytop Village, one of the most successful residential drug and alcohol treatment programs in the USA, writes The New York Times.

William Bastable O’Brien, monsignor and drug rehabilitation advocate

Born 1924; died 2014.

Monsignor O’Brien opened the first Daytop treatment residence in 1963 on Staten Island with three partners: Dr Daniel Casriel, a psychiatrist; Joseph Shelly, the chief probation officer of the criminal court in Brooklyn; and Alexander Bassin, a social worker and criminologist.

Over the next two decades the program grew into a national franchise, with 28 facilities in five states, and became a model for substance abuse treatment centres around the world. Daytop officials say its centres have treated more than 200,000 people in the United States alone, achieving a long-term sobriety success rate of over 80 percent.

Tall and dapper — he favoured well-made suits and snap-brim caps and called his clerical garb “my monkey suit” — Monsignor O’Brien became something of a celebrity through Daytop, which is not affiliated with the Church.

He was courted by politicians, invited to brief Pope John Paul II on substance abuse and featured on broadcast news shows like ABC’s 20/20, which called him “one of the world’s recognised experts in rehabilitating drug addicts” in a 1990 report.

At the invitation of public health officials, he helped set up programs similar to Daytop in 66 countries and was one of the founders of the World Federation of Therapeutic Communities by the time he retired in 2010.

Monsignor O’Brien leveraged the publicity to become a powerful advocate of treatment programs and one of the fiercest critics of the so-called war on drugs.

He testified frequently at legislative hearings in state capitals and in Washington, and could be stinging in his criticism of government officials for building more prisons while cutting funding for drug treatment.

Read full article: Msgr. William O’Brien, 90, Dies; Innovator in Treating Drug Abuse (The New York Times)

IMAGE Credit: Msgr O’Brien in 1990. By Frankie Ziths / The New York Times

The Online Mass


From Parish of Our Lady of The Way, North Sydney & Lavender Bay. The first Mass of the day on YouTube.
Mass on Demand donate

Daily Prayer

Daily Prayer

All your daily readings, reflections and prayers can be found here...