From the Desk of Executive Director, Jeffrey Quamme Letter from Alison Knopf, editor, Alcohol & Drug Abuse WeeklyJune 12, 2015
Wallingford, CT - The Connecticut Certification Board’s May 14 awards dinner – the first of what will be an annual event – featured Barbara Powell, who presented the David Powell Award for lifetime achievement in honor of her late husband. The award was presented to Patricia Rehmer, until February the state’s commissioner of mental health and addiction, is now vice president of Hartford Healthcare, where she is to be president of HHC Behavioral Health Network. I was delighted to be able to chat with Barbara, Heather, one of David and Barbara’s daughters, and Pat at the dinner before I went on to make the keynote presentation.
David was president and CEO of ETP, Inc., which provided employee assistance programs and established the clinical preceptorship program for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. I knew him as one of the “thundering hundred” – the people who started EAPs as places where people with what are now called substance use disorders could get help instead of thrown out of the workplace. This dated back to the 1970s and 1980s, when people like David made it safe for the first time for many people to get professional help for alcohol and drug problems.
He was also a Connecticut resident – from Granby, not far from Cromwell, where the awards dinner was held at the Crowne Plaza.
We caught up with Barbara by phone after the dinner, when she was on her farm in her home state of Kansas. She recalled David’s travel in the early days. “We had a lot of fun, because he would travel to places like Japan, and I got to tag along,” she said. He had always wanted to go to China, where he set up the first Alcoholics Anonymous program. In 1979, he contacted Pan American Airlines, which promised him free tickets if he would drum up business for them. “He said ‘We’re going to run a conference in China,’” she recalled. “’We have no money, no people going, but we’re going to do this.’” He contacted colleagues and asked if they wanted to go to China, telling them their payment would be in helping people, and that they would have room and board. “So we holed up in a dorm room,” said Barbara. David went every year for 15 years, and trained thousands of people in China, where there is now a small cadre of recovering people in a culture which for decades denied that alcohol or drug abuse even existed. And it had to be professional, of course. “You have to have certification,” David said.
The belief in the power of recovery never left him. William White said recently that he and David had been talking about the importance of conveying this to counselors of today – in Connecticut, all of the people certified and seeking certification by the CCB.
Of all of his jobs, though, David’s favorite was playing the White Rabbit at the New York World’s Fair.
It was an honor to be at the awards dinner – which was delicious – and to be able to speak as a reporter in the field to counselors working to help patients today, with professionalism their goal. Thank you Jeff Quamme for inviting me.
Alison Knopf, editor, Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Weekly