|Oral History Archives at Columbia|
At a Glance
Interviews are arranged into one series, alphabetically by narrator's last name.
Scope and Content
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.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.
Restrictions on Use
Copyright by The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York, 2014-2015.
Digital transcripts and audio can be accessed via the project website created and maintained by the Columbia Center for Oral History Research.
The Phoenix House oral history project was undertaken by the Columbia Center for Oral History Research from 2014-2015. It was instigated by Dr. Mitchell S. Rosenthal in February 2014 on recommendation from Dr. Robert Caro, who used the Columbia Center for Oral History Archives extensively in his research. The goal of the project was to conduct a series of interviews in order to document the history of Phoenix House and its leadership in drug treatment innovation.
Columbia Center for Oral History Research, 2016
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
2017-02-07 xml document instance created by David Olson
2019-06-08 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.
History / Biographical Note
Phoenix House was founded in 1967 in New York City when six heroin addicts decided to move into an apartment on 85th Street and support each other after leaving a detoxification ward. They reached out to psychiatrist Mitchell Rosenthal, who had worked on addiction in the U.S. Navy. Rosenthal was working for New York City's Addiction Services Agency, which Mayor John Lindsay had founded earlier that year. Phoenix House soon became a part of the ASA and began expanding rapidly. With the help of philanthropist Jack Aaron, a non-profit foundation was set up to provide additional support for Phoenix House. By 1972, Phoenix House separated from the ASA and became a non-profit. Treatment at Phoenix House followed the therapeutic community model, with addicts further along in recovery supporting those beginning treatment. In time, Phoenix House expanded to locations throughout New York City and ten states. In 1983, Phoenix House founded the first Phoenix House Academy, an accredited residential high school where students could continue with their studies while being treated for addiction. At the time of the interviews, Phoenix House was serving over 5,000 individuals and remained committed to supporting individuals and families by providing a wide range of services including prevention, early intervention, treatment, continuing care, and recovery support.