"Smithers Rehab Chief Quits Over Just-a-Sip Policy"
New York Post 7/11/00

The director of the famed Smithers addiction clinic - Manhattan's rehab center to the stars - quit under pressure yesterday after endorsing a new treatment program for alcoholism that allows moderate drinking.

Dr. Alex DeLuca resigned from the Smithers Addiction Treatment and Training Center - whose clients have included Darryl Strawberry, Truman Capote and Joan Kennedy - after a falling-out with St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center managers, who endorse the traditional abstinence approach.

DeLuca's departure comes a week after he was quoted in New York magazine about the change in treatment, and on the same day the program was blasted in a full-page newspaper ad by its benefactor. St. Luke's "has a long and proud tradition of treating alcoholism by advocating total abstinence," the hospital said in a statement. "While we recognize there may be other legitimate alternatives in the treatment of this difficult disease, no change in our own ... policy was ever approved. "

"Since Dr. Alex DeLuca does not support [that policy], we have accepted his resignation as director of Smithers."
DeLuca, who was director for two years, wasn't available for comment.

The resignation was good news to abstinence advocates, including the philanthropic organization that bears the same name as the clinic. The Smithers Center, on Manhattan's West Side, was launched at St. Luke's in 1971 with a $10 million grant from R. Brinkley Smithers, a physician and philanthropist who had started a charitable foundation in his father's name to fund alcoholism education and treatment. "His approach and philosophy was that alcoholism was a respectable disease," said his widow, Adele C. Smithers-Fornaci, president of The Christopher D. Smithers Foundation, Inc. "It was based on abstinence because, medically and scientifically, there is nothing [else] that has been proven that works." Smithers-Fornaci said news that moderate drinking would be allowed was a slap in the face to her husband's legacy.

One advocate of the moderation-management approach called DeLuca "a casualty" in the hotly contested treatment debate. "I'm not too surprised," said Donna Cornett, founder and director of Drink/Link Alcohol Moderation Programs Product and Services in Santa Rosa, Calif. "It has been very difficult in traditional treatment fields to accept the notion. The advantages are being recognized."



Alexander DeLuca, M.D., FASAM.
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Revised: March 21, 2001.