Joe Gerstein Elected New SMART Recovery® President

Plans Include Integrating Meetings in Prisons Worldwide and VA Medical Centers
MENTOR, Ohio - Dec. 30, 2016 - PRLog -- The SMART Recovery Board of Directors elected Joe Gerstein, M.D., FACP, among the organization's most highly regarded leaders, as the new president, effective December 29.

He succeeds Tom Horvath, Ph.D., who provided SMART with 20 years of distinguished service as president. Horvath will remain on the Board as a valuable and ongoing member, while focusing more on growing the program in southern California where he runs the treatment center Practical Recovery.

Gerstein has served as a leading force in SMART for more than 25 years, going back to its origins as Rational Recovery in 1989. He is regarded as the person most responsible for establishing SMART in its current form as the founding president in 1994.

He takes the helm once again as SMART is growing at a fast pace, having launched 1,000 meetings in the past three years, bringing the total to nearly 2,200. Helping drive this growth is the sharp increase in the number of people taking the online Get SMART FAST Distance Training Program. As many as 2,500 registered for the program in 2016 — 60 percent of them recovery professionals.

Gerstein Models SMART Principles as a Leader

"Joe embodies the ideals of SMART as a partnership between professionals and peers," said Vice President Brett Saarela. She added, "He understands the importance of supporting our volunteers. Over the years, he's helped lead us through every challenge and success. During this time of change, he brings an even-keeled style of leadership, diplomacy and the ability to find compromise between disparate points of view."

Joe Gerstein is the namesake of SMART's prestigious Joseph Gerstein Award for Exemplary Service, recognizing distinguished service to the organization. This October, he received the Harvard Humanist of the Year Award honoring his service to SMART, "which we view among the greatest examples of community service in the history of modern humanism," according to the university's Humanist Hub, sponsor of the award.

As he begins his new term as SMART president, Gerstein is developing an action agenda that draws upon his SMART experience and professional strengths, including 30 years as a practitioner of internal medicine and pain management in Cambridge, MA. For SMART Recovery, he has launched and facilitated thousands of meetings. His plans include:

Integrate SMART Throughout Judicial and Correctional Systems Worldwide

"This is clinically, ethically and constitutionally the right thing to do," he says. Since the first years of SMART's existence, Gerstein has facilitated more than 800 meetings in prisons in New England, Australia and the UK. More than 200 prisons worldwide currently host SMART Recovery meetings or ones based on its InsideOut® program, which Gerstein helped create in the late 1990s with a $1 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

In fact, research involving the prison system of New South Wales, Australia, provides some of the most convincing evidence of SMART's effectiveness. The study compared reoffending rates for nearly 6,000 inmates and found that the half who attended SMART meetings had significantly lower rates, especially in committing violent crimes (Christine Blatch et al., "Getting SMART, SMART Recovery Programs and Reoffending" Journal of Forensic Practice, January 2016).

Launch More Meetings Inside Hospitals and In-Patient Treatment Centers

Meetings in medical settings clearly associate SMART with mainstream healthcare using tools from evidence-based disciplines, such as cognitive therapies and motivational interviewing. Gerstein has collaborated with long-time SMART volunteer Bill Abbott in establishing 29 SMART meetings in16 Massachusetts hospitals, including major teaching hospitals of the Harvard Medical School. Both men have been associated with the Harvard Medical School, Gerstein as an assistant clinical professor of medicine and Abbott as emeritus professor of surgery.

Introduce More SMART Meetings in Veterans Administration Medical Facilities

The more than 1,200 VA medical centers and outpatient facilities comprise the largest U.S. healthcare system in the US, serving 8.9 million veterans a year. More than 30 facilities host SMART meetings, and some have found them useful in supporting treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Explore How to Better Engage Recovery Professionals

As professionals grow more aware of SMART through the training and other avenues, Joe would like to explore how to effectively involve them in the drive for more meetings in hospitals, treatment centers, prisons and drug court programs. Professionals treat people for addiction in these settings and can contribute to support groups using the same treatment tools.

Expand and Organize the SMART Global Community

"SMART is now a bona fide worldwide program," he said, with more than 900 meetings in 17 countries outside the U.S. (Australia, Canada, China and Hong Kong, Denmark, India, Iran, Ireland, Kenya, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan, Vietnam.)

"He has served as SMART's global pioneer and ambassador," added Saarela, "having introduced our program to countries on six continents." He and his wife, Barbara, nurtured SMART's growth and development of affiliate organizations in the UK with 475 weekly meetings and Australia with nearly 200. Plans are underway to create SMART Recovery International with three divisions: the U.S. Division overseeing the Americas and Africa; the UK division, all of Europe; and the Australia Division, this country and all of Asia.

Gerstein's plans will be refined and reshaped with the help of an experienced SMART Board of Directors and executed by thousands of volunteers, including regional coordinators, meeting facilitators and professionals worldwide.

For information about SMART Recovery, visit www.smartrecovery.org.

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