Join Together, a major distributor of news on substance abuse and tobacco use by youth, is merging with 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 the 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.”
David Rosenbloom, founder and director of Join Together, which has been a project of the Boston University School of Public Health, will be president and CEO of the newly merged organization. The new organization is taking the CASA name.
“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. He will remain as chairman of CASA’s board.
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 to major newspapers, including The Washington Post and The New York Times.
Among CASA’s admirers are 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 foreword 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.”
Talks of a merger between the two organizations began after CASA started searching last year for a new CEO to replace Califano. Califano said discussions about merging began once CASA had decided on Rosenbloom, one of 16 finalists.
Both staffs will stay intact “at the moment,” Rosenbloom said. Some Join Together staff are likely to 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.