In the early fifties there was little help available for anyone suffering alcohol use disorder. The Smithers Foundation helped to fund the National Committee on Alcoholism (now the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence) which helped establish a nationwide network of affiliates – more than 200 sites at its peak.
The Foundation established of The New City Medical Society on Alcoholism (now the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM)) with more than 3,000 members all involved in treating people addicted to alcohol. It also influenced corporate industry and labor giants like General Motors, Exxon, U.S. Steel and the AFL-CIO to recognize alcohol use disorder in the workplace, and to understand it was a treatable medical illness. This was the forerunner to Employee Assistance Programs which are a part of the labor management workforce today.
Additionally, the Smithers Foundation funded research which was the basis for “The Disease Concept of Alcoholism” by E. M. Jellinek, and started to publish its own literature, addressing the myriad aspects of AUD.
The Smithers Foundation continued its work to increase awareness and education about alcohol use disorder. This included increased funding for like-minded scientists and academic institutions as well as publications that informed professionals and the larger community about how best to manage addiction to alcohol.
This decade started with a $10 million gift – the largest ever made by an individual or organization for alcohol use disorder – to establish the Smithers Alcoholism Treatment and Training Center. It was the first comprehensive alcohol use disorder unit as a part of a leading hospital that provided detox, rehab and professional training services. Other large foundations and corporations followed suit, but perhaps most notable from this time period was the creation of a federal research institution on issues related to alcohol use disorder. The Smithers Foundation supported the passage of the Hughes Act sponsored by Senator Harold Hughes which provided the legislation for The National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA). This landmark policy and research initiative greatly expanded funding and increased services for people struggling with alcohol addiction, their families and communities. Smithers also funded the establishment of EPRA, a comprehensive vocational rehabilitation program for individuals in recovery from drug and alcohol abuse. Among its objectives: helping those individuals return to full employment.
The Smithers Foundation expanded its influence during the eighties with a major grant in support of the Fellowship Center, which established protocols for education and treatment of AUD in New York State prisons. It also made a $6.7 million dollar gift to Cornell and Rutgers Universities to create a major institute dealing with alcohol use disorder prevention in the workplace. As the decade came to a close, Smithers was recognized as one of 101 candidates registered for the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize.
This marked a period of significant impact on youth prevention and education projects through strategic grants. Recipients included: Youth Outreach through the Alcoholism Council; collaboration with Dr. Essie Lee and Hunter College for training in prevention provided to New York City Departments of Police and Correction, Y.M.C.A., Boys and Girls of New York City, Girl Scouts, City College of New York and the New York City Board of Education.
The Smithers Foundation also made a major grant to New York Yankees baseball star Derek Jeter’s Turn Two Foundation to promote and develop youth leadership, scholarship and citizenship.
While continuing to support local organizations, the Foundation also started to work with the international community through the United Nations.
In 2003 the World Health Organization declared alcohol use disorder among the top ten health threats in the world. It was appropriate for Antonio Maria Costa, executive director United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to keynote the Smithers Foundation’s 50th anniversary gala celebration.
Eventually, the World Health Organization changed its position on alcohol use disorder, declaring it the number one health threat in the world. The Foundation responded by continuing to fund innovative programs and supporting new collaborations like “The Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol Free”, specifically geared to a 9-12 year old audience.
From 2004 to the present day, the Foundation continues its work with the local, national and international community as each struggles with addressing the myriad of problems that are a direct result of alcohol use disorder.