Join Together, a major distributor of news on substance abuse and tobacco use by youth, announced yesterday that it would merge with a major policy organization in the field.
The 18-year-old nonprofit will become part of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), which was founded in 1992 by Joseph Califano and is housed at Columbia University in New York.
"Clearly, this makes CASA the powerhouse in substance abuse field," Califano said of the merger. "This gives us a critical mass at a time when I really believe the country is beginning to appreciate how implicated substance abuse is in our nation's social problems."
It is Join Together (JT) Founder and Director David Rosenbloom, however, who will be CEO of the newly merged organizations.
"The board and I are convinced that David Rosenbloom is the individual best suited to move CASA forward and increase its influence and activities," Califano said in the statement announcing the merger. "The combination of CASA and Join Together will produce a total far greater than the sum of the parts."
Califano will remain as chairman of CASA's board of directors. "I will be a very active chairman," he said.
Califano, who was U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare under President Jimmy Carter, is a controversial figure in youth research. During his tenure, CASA has been successful in reaching the media with its projects, and Califano is a regular contributor of opinion articles s to major newspapers including The Washington Post and The New York Times.
CASA's admirers include some in the research world and a slate of politicians that includes New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.
"I think they do fantastic work," said Michele Simon, research and policy director for the alcohol industry watchdog Marin Institute.
Others shudder at Califano's coupling of numbers and rhetoric. For example, in a foreward to CASA's 2007 "National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse," he warned that "parents should wake up to the reality that their children are going each day to schools where drug use, possession and sale are as much a part of the curriculum as arithmetic and English.
Rosenbloom said he does not think criticisms of CASA will affect its new mission as a netural disseminator of news from researchers.
"I have great respect for the intellectual product of CASA," Rosenbloom said. "JT's capacity to deliver objective news will be strengthened by this relationship."
Talks of a merger began after CASA started searching last year for a new CEO to replace Califano. Rosenbloom was selected from a list of 16 final candidates. Califano said discussions about merging began once the organization had decided on him.
Both staffs will stay intact "at the moment," Rosenbloom said. Some JT staff will likely be lost when the organization moves its operation to New York.
"We both have great teams," Rosenbloom said. "We plan on continuing to have as many people from those great teams working with us as possible."
Both organizations are grantees of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Contact: Join Together (617) 437-1500, www.jointogether.org; (212) 841-5200, www.casacolumbia.org.