The Phoenix House Oral History Collection, 2014-2015

Project: Phoenix House Oral History Project

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The Phoenix House Oral History Collection documents three periods of Phoenix House's work: origins, growth, and established leadership. In the first period, spanning from 1967 to the 1970s, narrators detail the founding of a therapeutic community in a detoxification ward in Morris Bernstein Institute, the dynamics of this community, and the influences of other self-help drug treatment organizations such as Synanon on the structure and mission of the program. In the growth period, narrators speak of opening up new facilities, and designing and launching new programs. Topics covered include the political and funding challenges of expanding Phoenix House's reach, increases in medical and mental health staff, and partnering with state departments of corrections to provide the Phoenix House program as an alternative to incarceration. In the final period, narrators describe changes in the therapeutic community model, further expansion of programs across the United States, acquisitions of competitors, new funding challenges, and transitions in leadership.

Narrators include Phoenix House founders, former residents, employees (resident directors, regional directors, clinical directors, public relations professionals, directors of human services, and more), and collaborators such as journalists, politicians, philanthropists, legal counsel, and public servants. Many of these categories overlap, as Phoenix House has adhered to a self-help model, hiring its former residents to "seed" the therapeutic community model at new facilities. Interviews address locations include New York, southern California, and Texas. Within New York, recollections cover Hart Island, Phelan Place in the Bronx, various locations on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Coney Island, and East Harlem. Interviews address the period between 1928-2015. The collection is comprised of interviews with the following narrators: Frank Barron, John Bell, Leslie Bennetts, Ronald Coster, George De Leon, Norwig Debye-Saxinger, David Deitch, Tony Endre, Sara Ann Fagin, James Ferguson, Howard Friend, William Fusco, Nancy Hoving, Howard Josepher, Peter Kerr, Herbert Kleber, Kandy Latson, Lawrence Lederman, Conrad Levenson, Barry McCaffrey, Kevin McEneaney, Ira Mothner, Carlos Pagan, Peter G. Peterson and Joan Ganz Cooney, Chris Policano, Mitchell Rosenthal, Jean Scott, Amy Singer, Morty Sklar, Jerry Taylor, and Ronald Williams.