Daytop Drug Rehabilitation Facilities

Daytop’s History

(Historic photo of addiction treatment group session)
“Back in the 1950s, it was the desperation of the addicts and their families that convinced me something must be done to give these people hope.”
(Msgr. O’Brien Founder & President of Daytop)
(border around photo)

“Once an addict…”

In the 1950's, the public attitude was "once an addict, always an addict." Neither jail nor hospital stays seemed to make a bit of difference to an addicted person.
Father O'Brien was drawn into the world of drug abuse and crime by the mother of a gang member frantically asking for help. Father O'Brien quickly realized that the common denominator in this, and most other street crime, was drugs. He found an appalling scarcity of programs treating substance abuse with any measure of success.

Others Searching Too

In his search for effective means of treatment, Father O'Brien met Dr. Alexander Bassin of the Kings County Court, who had been watching the turnstile pattern of drugs, crime and prison. They discovered others looking for answers, including Dr. Dan Casriel, who met Father O'Brien when they both visited Synanon in Westport, Connecticut.
In 1958, Charles Dederich, himself a recovering alcoholic, started Synanon as a community of recovering people. This system was based on group encounters and addicts confronting each other, demanding self-revelation and responsibility.

Testing the Theory

Based on their findings, Dr. Bassin's team from the Brooklyn Court received a grant which led to the founding of Daytop Lodge at Butler Manor, Staten Island in 1963. This first rehabilitation facility was designed for 22 male probationers from the Brooklyn corrections system.
The basics of the treatment program were group therapy sessions, role modeling, job assignments and a hierarchy of peers. As residents progressed, they received more responsible duties, and earned more privileges. Those coming after them could see that others like themselves were gaining respect, and that life without drugs was possible. These basic elements have remained, as the therapeutic community evolved to meet the changing populations and needs of the clients.

The Early Days

In late 1964, Daytop incorporated as Daytop Village, now a full-fledged therapeutic community, whose residents included men and women, arrestees as well as voluntary referrals.
As Daytop's success in drug treatment became known, the need for treatment centers grew. Father O'Brien and his Board of Directors found space in Sullivan County New York, and the first residential facility, Daytop Swan Lake, opened in June 1966.

Changing Populations

In the next couple of years it became evident that there was a problem with more casual drug users, as well as hard-core addicts, who could respond to treatment in an outpatient center. Daytop's first outpatient facility in Mount Vernon, Westchester County, opened in 1968 and served residents of the community. Daytop expanded with more residential facilities, and more outpatient centers throughout the New York area.

We Continue

The profile of our clients has changed over the years. The numbers of adolescents using drugs keeps going up, and their ages keep going down. Parents recognize that early treatment can save much pain and trouble later, and so these adolescents are getting help sooner. Employers recognize that trouble on the job may be a sign of substance abuse, and refer their employees to programs for help. Medical, educational and other services have been added to the programs. But Daytop has kept the basic tools that proved successful so many years ago and adapted them to today's changing population. And those who come into Daytop without hope leave as healthy, productive people, united with family and friends, and with a future in front of them.
(Daytop Prince’s Bay, Staten Island)
(Residents at Daytop Prince’s Bay, Staten Island)
(Daytop Swan Lake facility)
(Daytop’s Mahhattan Outreach Facility with residents in foreground)
(People protesting the opening of a Daytop facility on Staten Island)
(Daytop’s administrative building in New York City)