Mr. Ron Clark
1935 – 2019
Our spotlight for the month of June, 2010 is Mr. Ron Clark, Founder and CEO of Regional Addiction Prevention (“RAP, Inc.”), a non-profit community organization that offers numerous treatment programs and modalities for individuals dealing with substance abuse problems.
Destiny – Pride: Good morning, Mr. Clark. Destiny – Pride, Incorporated thanks you for taking the time to converse with us, to introduce yourself to our visitors, and to tell us about your organization and your life’s journey. Let’s start by learning a little bit about you – your family make up; where you were born, and if you’re not from this area, what it was that brought you here.
Mr.Clark: Well first, let me thank you for the opportunity and for you guys thinking that I have something to say worthy of this interview [laughter]. I’m actually from California – Los Angeles, to be precise. I was born in Los Angeles in September 1935, so I’ve been around a little while. As to my family, my mother [Ruth Clark] came to Los Angeles as a very young girl from Georgia; my father [Roy Clark] came from St. Louis. Los Angeles is one of those places during that period of time – we’re talking about the 1900’s – when people were coming from everywhere. Los Angeles and California were “glowing.” There weren’t too many natives – at least African Americans – in California during that period. My parents went to high school there; they met at high school. In fact, I went to the same high school that my mother went to, which was Jefferson High School.
Jefferson High School played a part in my own development. It was one of those schools that was championing everything – basketball; track; football; even tennis, which seemed to be rare during that period. that They had a music program – one of the finest programs in the city. They actually had a “swing” band, or “jazz” band, but we called it a “swing” band during that period. My father was a jazz musician and had played music all his life, so I had an interest in it. He was the kind of man who worked three jobs if he had to, and at times he did. He was into aircrafts. California was very big during the war building airplanes and ships. One of the main bases was in Long Beach for building warships and Douglas aircraft and Hughes aircrafts built bombers. My father worked at Douglas Aircraft for 36 years and he continued to play his music on the side. That meant that we became pretty stable as a family, in terms of the consistency of an income. We certainly were not middle class as such, but we were working class people, and it did make a difference in where we lived and how he was able to hold the family together.
My interest in music came, of course, from my family – my father, who was the professional musician, and my mother, who played the piano and wrote songs. Los Angeles was full of music everywhere in terms of listening to the radio. Everybody – at least half the people on the block – played some kind of instrument when we were growing up, so we got together as kids and started to play.
Jefferson High School had a teacher – Sam Brown – who was very well known as a pianist, and a beautiful piano player who, himself, was well known as a jazz musician. This band traveled around to other high schools, and we performed, and many people of worth came through that school. Dexter Gordon had been in the band at one time; the Forman Brothers had been in the band; also Frank Morgan and Don Cherry. There are other names that would take me a minute to try to bring back, but these are people who became nationally known.
My mother was interesting. She wanted to be a graphic artist, and during that period, it was difficult for African Americans in that field, and so not too much came out of it. But she had a talent for decorating. Also, she was very involved with the PTA. I remember she brought Lionel Hampton – because my father knew him and she knew Hampton’s wife – to the high school to perform. So she did things like that in the community. That’s what happened as my development started.
Destiny – Pride: What instrument(s) did you play?
Mr.Clark: I played saxophone all throughout high school. After high school, I became a bass player, and I started to work with a lot of the local bands at that point.
Destiny – Pride: How did you make that quantum leap from Los Angeles to DC?
Mr.Clark: During that time I wanted to play jazz and there were lots of drugs around. I can’t blame it on any particular musician, but this was in the early days of bebop – this was in the 50’s; I graduated in 1954 from high school. I had been playing around the local community for a while, and had already started to smoke pot. My father had always been worried about that, having been a jazz musician himself and had been around all of that but had never done drugs himself; but he was worried about his two sons.
Let me just tell you that story very quickly. I had an older brother. And as you know in those days you had to follow in his steps. He was known in the community as being a pretty rugged character. He also played the saxophone, but he was a pretty wild person. He went into the army at 16 – he put his age up – and ended up in Japan. This would have been in the 50’s. He was in Japan when the Korean War broke out. So, within a matter of days, he found himself in Korea and was there for several years after that. In Japan he had started to use heroin. A lot of people don’t know it, but as we know about heroin use in Vietnam veterans, just as many Korean veterans got involved with heroin during that period. He got wounded, and he came back, but he came back to California strung out. I think he stayed clean for the first couple of years he was back. Now this was unbeknownst to the family. He went into Veteran’s Hospital because of his wounds that he received over in Korea; went back to school under the GI bill; and did some other things. Then, all of a sudden, the next thing we knew he was strung out and starting to do a lot of mischief.
Well, I was watching all of this develop myself. So my big brother told me one day, “If I ever catch you doing this, I’m gonna kill you,” and interestingly enough, we did finally get into a fight. It was interesting how we got into the fight because it was over drugs. He found out that I was using drugs, so he said, “Well, look, if you’re going to do this, then come through me; don’t go there yourself, come through me.” By this time, we both had moved out of the house, on our own. I had an apartment – I went through all of that stuff. I moved back into my mother’s house – we both moved back at the same time, now using drugs.
So we had this fight one morning. I had gotten up before him, got out, made some money and came back and had some drugs – and I wasn’t going to share them. We had this terrible fight, man, over drugs. All I can remember my mother saying is “My babies! My babies! Oh, my babies! What’s going on? God, stop! What’s going on?” Our behavior was killing her.
Several years had passed and my father read an article in Downbeat Magazine about Synanon. Synanon was a place where musicians were going for rehab in terms of treatment for substance abuse. He left the magazine around for a few days, and finally put it in my hand and said “You’re going here.” By that time I had been arrested several times and some other things had happened. Each time I had just barely gotten out of these scrapes and knew that the next time, I might not be so lucky. I agreed, and said I would go, but only if my brother, Victor, went as well. So he agreed to go, and we went down to this place on the beach in Santa Monica called Synanon.
Destiny – Pride: And Synanon is the acronym for what?
Mr.Clark: It has no acronym; that’s what it is, which is something in and of itself as to how it became that. It’s S-Y-N-A-N-O-N. If you look it up, that’s what it is. It became a place where people went who were involved in substance abuse.
Destiny – Pride: I always thought it was an acronym for something.
Mr.Clark: Well, interestingly enough, they used to have these seminars everyday where they would put concepts on the boards. They called them “seminars.” Well somebody was trying to say “seminar,” and they said “Well I want to go to one of those “synanons.” [laughter] Chuck Dederich, who was the founder, said he liked that and he began to use it, and that became the name. So Victor and I went in for the interview – my father took us. By that afternoon, as I went through the process of admissions, I didn’t see my brother anymore that day. Well, I found out that he’d left; I didn’t see him again for about three or four months, but he finally did get back there.
But that was the beginning of a whole new experience in my life. I had never done anything like this, and it became something that I became very involved and interested in. I ended up eventually working there for some eight years. It was an experience that sometimes becomes very difficult to explain because it was the first time that drug addicts became counselors and ran the program themselves. It was when they used to use the words “ex-addicts” and all that, so the “ex-addicts” ran the place – everything from washing dishes to actually administering and bringing in money for the continuation of the program.
It was structured where you could work your way out and become a leader – what we used to call “tribe leader” after a period o f time. But there was stuff that you were learning: I learned how to work with people; I learned how to do one-on-one counseling and group counseling. They had retreats of all sorts. But I had a thirst that came out of wanting to know more about the world.
The Civil Rights Movement was going on during the time I was in Synanon. I watched the Watts riot, which was not too far from where we were, on television. I watched the sit-ins and the movement with Dr. King, and I kept thinking that I should be involved with this. I was sitting in Synanon, feeling protected. The organization did some very interesting things in terms of dealing with racism. But it was more around prisons. I started to read a lot of African American writers: James Baldwin – “The Fire Next Time”; Carter G. Woodson – “The Mis-Education of the Negro”. I was also greatly influenced by Ralph Warldo Emerson‘s essay “Self-Reliance.” These are but some of the writers that I began to read during this period.
One interesting thing happened. We used to have what we called “group sessions” or “rap sessions.” One of the white dudes in the program who was a director took after me one time in a session. He said, “Why are you reading that “hate” literature?” I said, “What are you talking about?” He said, “Well, I saw those books by the side of your bed.” And I said, “Hate literature? Those are great writers – African American writers who write about the times, write about history, slavery and what was going on with African American people.” So what I understood for the first time was that his interpretation of my reading about myself was that it must be hate because if you read about yourself, then you must be against them, which was a form of racism; and the program had always claimed not to be racist – it was one of the first experiments in integrated living because it had every kind of person you could think of in the organization. But that became a big issue, and I began to understand that there were cultural differences in peoples’ perception of things. That was a big leap for me for that to happen. And of course he didn’t know any thing about it; he didn’t even know that African American people wrote books [laughter]. So I said it was time for me to go.
Destiny – Pride: Who were some of the individuals who had had the greatest impact on you up until that point?
Mr.Clark: Well, they were jazz musicians mainly, before I started to read. But James Baldwin and Louis Lomax, who was one of the first journalists to interview Malcolm X. He wrote “The Negro Revolt.” I can’t think of anybody else at the moment.
Destiny – Pride: What about your parents? Were they people of faith?
Mr.Clark: Oh, my mother! [laughter] Mother – in fact my sister said to me one day that my mother had wrapped us in prayer, and it would probably last for the rest of our lives. And so far, it has. She was a woman of faith, and had two drug addicts in the family who were totally crazy. I know we sped her death up; it’s no doubt in my mind about that – that she would have been with us longer if we hadn’t been so crazy. But she was a woman of prayer – she really believed in prayer. We prayed every morning before we went to school. You couldn’t go out the door until there was a prayer in the house. That was very strong and of course I was involved with the church up until I was about 13, when I thought I could then call my own shots. I was involved in the church in such a way that when you went for church that morning, you stayed there all day long. It was a Baptist church, and a down-to-earth Baptist church. They cooked, and you ate there – you ate your dinner there and everything else. She was a woman of faith and always supported us in what we wanted to do.
Destiny – Pride: And how about your father?
Mr.Clark: He became [a man of faith] later on. He was a strong figure. It was like this: When you have an older brother who gets in trouble, then the attention shifts to you. They said, “We’ve got to save him.” [laughter] So I got a lot of overflow from that – bad and good. One of the things was the Boy Scouts. My father became the Scout Master. I’ve run into people years later who remembers: “Oh, I remember when your father used to be the Scout Master.” That was his attempt; so he tried to spend a lot of time with me that he felt they hadn’t done with my brother. He and I became pretty close and obviously he was the one who suggested that I go and try to do something about my drug use, and I did it partly because he wanted me to.
Let me just jump ahead for a minute. An interesting thing happened years later after I had left Synanon and moved to New York. I became the director of the Phoenix House in Spanish Harlem.
Destiny – Pride: Okay, and the Phoenix House is what?
Mr.Clark: It is one of the largest treatment centers in the country, using the Synanon concept of using people who have been involved with drugs themselves who became counselors and played major roles in running the organization. They took that concept, redefined it and built it into something.
Destiny – Pride: So when you left Los Angeles, you went to New York?
Mr.Clark: Yes, I went to New York.
Destiny – Pride: And that’s where you became the director?
By that time I had become a director even at Synanon, but as I said, some things had happened and it was time to go. I had this idea that if I could take this concept of Synanon and set it down in the African Community, that it would make a big difference in what I had seen and had been a part of at Syna non. But there was no way I could do it. I had gone to Watts, and Watts basically – interestingly enough – rejected my overtures in terms of this idea that I had and so it didn’t work. Some other people I knew had left Synanon and had gone to New York and had gotten jobs at the Phoenix House.
They called me saying, “Why don’t you come on out here? You know you’ve got a job waiting.” So I caught the first thing flying and went to New York. I had always wanted to visit New York because of my interest in music, and there were a couple of guys who I used to live with who had gone to New York and had become very successful – but they were very successful musicians before they left from California. When I went into Synanon, they went to New York, and I didn’t see them again for eight years – until I got there.
The thing about Synanon is that I got married in Synanon and my son was born in Synanon. I separated from my wife when I left there. My father brought my son out to me in New York, and he got to see me in a totally different light. I had seen him a few times – a day; a weekend or something over the period of that time, but not more than that. He got to see me where I was actually the director of this program in Spanish Harlem . . .
Destiny – Pride: At the Phoenix House.
Mr.Clark: At the Phoenix House, right, and he got to see that. That was the best thing that could have happened for both of us. He saw me in a whole different light. Probably, I believe, he said in his mind he always felt that I would, or could, do something with my life.
Destiny – Pride: How old was your son at that time?
Mr.Clark: My son would have been three or four.
Destiny – Pride: You’re now in New York. How did New York lose your great talent and you ended up in DC or how did you come from New York to DC?
Mr.Clark: I came from New York to DC, but let me just state some things that happened to me in New York.
Destiny – Pride: Okay.
Mr.Clark: First of all, when I went to Harlem, I had never seen that many black people in my life [laughter]. So I still had this thing in my mind that this concept – which now RAP uses today – could make a difference in the African American community. I didn’t last too long at Phoenix House. I was pretty arrogant in those days, and thought I pretty much was going to change the world with some of the concepts and ideas that I had experienced and had in my head, particularly about drugs and drug use. I ended up working in Bedford Stuyvesant [Brooklyn, New York]. Now interestingly enough I ended up working for a methadone program. I was totally against methadone, and felt it was a conspiracy – the whole thing that people went through about it conveyed in the African American community. I worked for a guy named Beny Primm – Dr. Primm – at the ARTC, which was one of the first large methadone programs certainly run by African Americans in the African American community. Of all places, they put it in Bedford Stuyvesant, and Bedford Stuyvesant was unbelievable; it was a battlefield. People were dying. They had two and three generations of drug addicts in one family. It was heart-wrenching; it was very difficult to work there.
Destiny – Pride: Was Bedford Stuyvesant a white or black area?
Mr.Clark: It was black. It was in Brooklyn. And that’s where they put this methadone program, so there was no way I could stay there.
Destiny – Pride: Was that in the early 70’s?
Mr.Clark: This would have been in 1968 – 1969, and I just couldn’t deal with it. Some people were having extreme reactions, particularly when they continued to drink alcohol while on methadone. I saw this happen several times, so it just didn’t fit with anything I had in my mind about what I thought treatment should be. So I left there, and I didn’t have a job – I wasn’t at Phoenix; I had left Bedford Stuyvesant, so I did some work for the YMCA in Harlem – I did some consulting work for a while.
I ran into a friend of mine who had been to Washington. He called me one day and said, “I want to come over and talk with you.” So he came over and talked with my wife and I – by this time, we were back together, so I had my family back together. He said, “Why don’t you guys come to Washington, DC?” I said, “For what?” He said, “Well, there’s a couple of priests in Washington that are trying to set up a drug program, and they want to do it the way you all did it in New York and California.” Very few people knew that concept of how to do that. I said “I’m not interested in going to Washington,” and he said, “Well, just come down for a weekend.” I came down one weekend, and I saw more black people than I saw in Harlem [laughter]. I said, “Well maybe this is where I’m supposed to be.” So that’s how I ended up coming to Washington – I came one weekend – in 1970, I guess – and actually never went back.
Destiny – Pride: You were just coming here at the explosion of heroin and at that time Dr. DuPont was introducing methadone here. It was about that same timeline, right?
Mr.Clark: Yes. Let me tell you a quick story. Dr. DuPont called me about a couple months ago, and said that they’re having a reunion of the NTA [Narcotics Treatment Administration], and asked me to come. I ended up speaking there. I just got a letter from him. In fact, they filmed the whole thing and he sent me a CD of it. Think of this interesting parallel: RAP and NTA were locked into this battle over methadone. RAP actively opposed methadone at that time. We had our voices. But, of course, he had the Federal Government behind him.
Destiny – Pride: Yes, he was the man at the time.
Mr.Clark: But he talked about how much Colonel Hassan – Black Man’s Development Center – and other groups were antagonistic towards him and he saw it. He was working for the Nixon Administration as a young doctor. I believe he honestly thought that he could do something to change some of the conditions in the community. So here are two different things going on with the perceptions about what could happen with this particular thing. Forty years later, RAP continues to serve as do methadone clinics.
Destiny – Pride: That leads us into our next question. About Regional Addiction Prevention, Inc., known by many as RAP, or RAP, Inc., when did it get started and why?
Mr.Clark: When I got here, I met Ron Grognet [and George Malzone]. You might remember Ron Grognet. They already had the name and they were working out of a church over in Georgetown. They were doing counseling sessions, but they didn’t have a building. This is interesting. So when I came down that weekend, they asked me if I would go with them over to Mrs. Mary Jackson’s office to talk with her. Mrs. Jackson was a highly effective community leader and activist—a community matriarch. She had two buildings. She had been funded by some of the early grants for community programs – she had a daycare in one building and an after school program in the other. The funding for the programs had run out but she still had a few months left on the lease. These buildings sat on the corner of 19th Street and Florida Avenue, N. W. I can even remember them now – two big old mansions. So, I went over and met with her, and I told her about the concept and what I thought I could do. After several meetings, she gave us the buildings.
Destiny – Pride: And that’s the building I used to always come over, right, on 19th Street?
Mr.Clark: Yes. There were several churches that had agreed to pay the lease on the building if we could do something with 90 days. So, I went back to New York to pack up, and when I got back, they had 15 people in the program. And that was the beginning of RAP. It kind of went from there.
Destiny – Pride: Tell us about the programs and services you offer at RAP.
Mr.Clark: The difference of the RAP program (it’s what we called “Therapeutic Community”; it wasn’t called that then) is that the brothers and sisters (the “clients”) when they come in for the basic interview just like anybody else – “how old are you”; “where are you from”; “how long have you been using drugs”; “have you done any jail time”; all the basic things – they get jobs. Basically, when you come in as a new comer, it’s usually what we call a “service crew,” and that’s washing dishes and cleaning toilets, and you kind of work your way up from there. The idea is that you become a part of a family. So RAP is like a large family; basically everybody does something to keep things going. So you may wash dishes, you may prepare the food, you may do the windows, or whatever – everybody has a chore. If you grew up in a large family, then it’s no difference because somebody cuts the lawn, somebody washes the dishes, somebody takes out the trash, and all those things that a family has to do. Those things became very important to the total running of the organization. I guess the difference – what carved us out in terms of our philosophy – is that we didn’t take any federal money. This was something that came out of Synanon. Synanon didn’t take any federal money. Synanon had what you’d call “acquisition,” and I started the first “acquisition” here in Washington. In other words, whatever we needed, we felt the community should help us by donating to us, because the problem was a community problem. We said we would deal with it, but we need your help. So that help could come in any kind and several different ways: it could be a donation of lumber, of food – anything that you could think of that any large family could use to help the family grow.
Destiny – Pride: Why were Synanon and you so adamant about not accepting federal help?
Mr.Clark: We had seen, and watched – and I understood this as part of my involvement with Synanon – that once you took government money, things changed, and they were never the same again. I understood that the government woudl require things of you that sometimes had nothing to do with your philosophy or the mission of your organization.
Destiny – Pride: You said you had that experience the first time you took federal money. What was that experience?
Mr.Clark: We were locked in. Once we did it, there were expectations that we felt somehow had really very little to do with keeping a man out of prison or helping a man or a woman change their lives. They wanted quick results and wanted to be able to count numbers. Helping individuals change and establish new lifestyle habits and patterns does not fit neatly into a funding formula.
Destiny – Pride: Okay, now you have them in the family end – they are on task, they might be cleaning or washing dishes, etc. What’s on the therapeutic side, as far as program delivery?
Mr.Clark: It’s all therapeutic. Most people think of therapy only in terms of counseling or some kind of special activity or information session set aside for “therapeutic purposes.” Actually, everything we do is geared to helping individuals heal and recover. Well let me see if I can describe a day in the life. We have what we call “morning meeting.” People get up and they have chores to do in terms of their dormitory – there are usually two to a room. They get ready for the day and that has to do with keeping your area clean. Now you also may have a job, you may work in the kitchen. You may be a part of preparing breakfast. Many times, people hadn’t done that before. These are things people hadn’t done in their lives before, so they’re learning how to cook at the same time, but they’re learning how to “share” and work together, and take directions. Now the guy who you’re taking directions from may have only been drug free a little longer than you have, and so you have to learn how to take directions from him or her to do your job. Now, one of the parts about it is, if there was a disagreement – which there many times was – we have what we call the “rap session”, where you could go and resolve the differences, because we were a “nonviolent” community. We made it very clear: no violence. There were three rules: no physical violence; no threat of physical violence; no drug taking of any sort – basically just being respectful to other human beings and their rights. These were the things that we expected of everyone.
The issue of nonviolence became very important because we were dealing with a group of people who came out of violent situations – just the whole idea of being out on the street running and using drugs; you’re constantly in violent situations. Whether it ever actually happens or not, it can always possibly happen. So you learn how to deal with situations by manipulating or throwing the first blow. In this situation, if you were going to learn something and change your life, that couldn’t even be here. As I said earlier, one of our rules is no threat of physical violence. So the threat of physical violence, in our minds, was just the same as the actual act of physical violence, because what it did was it brought an element of intimidation, and it brought in an element of prison. We were trying to do something where none of that was here; that a person, if he didn’t like you, could tell you that he didn’t like you without any retaliation. Him telling you that could be of assistance to you because, instead of you getting mad and wanting to fight, you might ask why, and he might tell you: “Well, you know, I don’t like the way you did this” . . . “I don’t like the sound of your voice” . . . “I don’t like the way you talk to people” . . . “you’re rude” . . . “who do you think you are?”
Destiny – Pride: Would that be in the rap sessions?
Mr.Clark: That would happen in the rap session. And then, of course, there were other people in the rap session who would assist in making sure that there was some kind of exchange of information. The other thing is that, when you left the room, whatever the disagreement was stayed in the room. You couldn’t take it out on the floor. It created a different kind of environment. If you are willing to try this, then some things actually could happen for you.
Destiny – Pride: Does RAP have any types of remedial educational programs linked to it?
Mr.Clark: Well, at one time, we had everything. First of all, I don’t know if you know it, but RAP has 28-day and 90-day clients.
Destiny – Pride: And it used to be . . .
Mr.Clark: It used to be a year or two years. So, of course, we had basic education – math; English; we had teachers coming in; you could get your GED. We had a relationship with the adult education department of the school system; we actually had teachers on our staff. You’re talking about several years ago. We had a vocational person on our staff. Employers would come to us and ask for our people. The employer would ask “Do you have any more like that?” because RAP graduates went to work with a whole different attitude. We worked on what could be called “an attitude adjustment,” because your attitude was talked about by your peers: “You know, man you can’t be going around with an attitude like that; you’re going to end up back in the joint, you know; you’re going to get locked up.” That was therapeutic part; the whole environment was therapeutic at all times. Everyday we would stop and have what we called a “seminar.” We would put a concept on the board from Dr. Martin Luther King, or maybe just a word, and we would discuss it.
People are usually brighter than they usually think they are, and know more than sometimes they think they know. In the drug world, they forget what they do know or in fact don’t let people know what they know because it puts them in a certain light. RAP encourages people to speak up and voice opinions about things and ideas. Somebody who wouldn’t talk very much at all at first, we press them until they find out they can talk. Not only could they talk, but they could put together a whole sentence and a whole concept – and do it in front of a group of people. We used to have what we called “mock speaking engagements,” where you’d have to get up and talk for a few minutes and then you’d be criticized – not on what you said or the content of what you said, but whether you had eye contact, or on whether you could stand still – things that would be instrumental in getting you to become a better speaker. So we produced some pretty good speakers. Those were all therapeutic things that people were learning while they were there.
Another thing was leadership. As you moved through the phases of treatment, you were offered opportunities to shine in whatever role you were assigned, whether it was as the receptionist at the front desk, answering the phone and routing calls or heading up a maintenance crew. It was your responsibility to see that the duties were performed well. A job well done is satisfying and it builds confidence. The more success a person experiences no matter what the task, the better that person will feel about himself/herself and the possibilities for rebuilding their lives. Once others take notice of a person’s great attitude, desire to do a job well, and his/her ability to motivate others to do the same, then that person really is uplifted. And then, they begin to say “I really can live differently.”
Destiny – Pride: What restraints are you experiencing now that you only have the clients for only 28 days.
Mr. Clark: We have created a structure that is effective for 28 days as well as other lengths of treatment. Of course, the clients do not have the same amount of time to practice the new lifestyle habits that we teach nor the time for as much cultural exposure that enhances their experience at RAP. But they still receive core support. Years ago, my staff and I worked out how the program should change to meet the dwindling number of days in treatment that the city would allow clients.
I told the staff that we didn’t want to become a “program pimp” so we had to figure out how we could offer solid treatment that would really make a difference in people’s lives. So we picked out key elements of the program that we felt would be instrumental in getting a person started on the road to recovery. We could help them to embrace strategies to avoid the nonsense that they have brought into their lives and into the community and their family. We said that’s enough for us to go ahead and continue with what we’re doing. And basically, that’s what we do today.
Destiny – Pride: And so now you’ve shifted from the 90 days to 28 days.
Mr.Clark: Yes, but see, we have several different contracts now, so we get 90-day people, too – CSOSA [The Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency], and then of course we have APRA [Addiction Prevention and Recovery Administration]. We get both, so there’s a mixture of people.
Destiny – Pride: So they now buffer what you are now doing?
Mr.Clark: We contract with them.
Destiny – Pride: What types of individuals do you service at RAP? What are their age ranges?
Mr.Clark: Well, it’s interesting because it comes and goes. Right now I’d say the average age is about 40, but there’ve been times when we’ve had a lot of young people. So it varies.
Destiny – Pride: Do you work only with males, or males and females?
Mr.Clark: This is a co-education environment, and we believe there’s no other way you can do it, because that’s the way the world is – there’re men and there’re women. It’s about learning how to get along; that’s part of the concept. You have to learn how to get along with women, too, and of course there’s a lot of attitudes that brothers have that they’ve picked up from their uncles and sometimes their fathers and just from buddies in the street about women. One of the things that can happen when you have a group session or rap session with males and females together is that you get to explore a lot of myths about both sexes, and so a lot of things are worked out. In particular, sometimes brothers have these attitudes about sisters. We demand respect of every woman in this environment, whether it’s a staff person or whether it’s a resident. And, too, to point out, we don’t allow the “B” word. Let me tell you something about the rap session itself: anything goes, short of physical violence. So you can say anything to anybody about anything you choose to – within reason – in terms of how you may view them and their behavior. We don’t allow women to be called out of name, so we don’t allow the “B” word. It’s interesting of our brothers because you watch them when they first come in, and they slip a few times. But they’re not pulled up by the sisters; they get pulled up by the brothers, because we usually have a group of brothers that have been around for a while, and we’ve already told them, “You got to protect the sisters” – this is our most valuable thing; it’s your mother; where did you come from? You can’t produce yourself – the importance of women in our environment in terms of our raising. So that’s talked about quite a bit.
Destiny – Pride: You have already taken us through a typical day in the life in your program. What is the “kick out” – or expulsion – point of someone at RAP?
Mr.Clark: Well, physical violence is one. Sexual acting out. Those are the two main ones.
Destiny – Pride: What about if you thought that somebody might still be using drugs?
Mr.Clark: We would test them and make a decision based on that, but usually, if their unit comes back dirty, they have to go. There’s a little catch in there: you can always apply to come back, but you can’t stay. A person who tries to slip drugs in stymies the whole environment because the environment knows about it first. Some people are going to help that person cover it up– and they might do it because they want to use some of the drugs, too – and before you know it there’re drugs in the environment. So a person is put out immediately for that. However, they can come back. But still the statement has to be made that we will not allow – in any way – that nonsense in this program. If you want to do that, then you can go on any corner around here and do that, but you can’t do it here.
Destiny – Pride: And please let our visitors know that this is a non-medicated program.
Mr.Clark: It’s what we call a “drug free” environment.
Destiny – Pride: No methadone . . .
Mr.Clark: None of those things. However, in the last four or five years we have dealt with mentally challenged people who sometimes are on medication. That has changed, too. We have a medical unit that basically deals with that.
Destiny – Pride: How would someone get into your program? Are there any prerequisites?
Mr.Clark: Well interestingly enough, we don’t take people directly. Everybody comes through detox – through APRA. So they have to go to APRA first. Th en an assessment is done and the decision is made whether they will go to a residential, out-patient or methadone program. It’s what we call the “Choice Program.” If you choose to go to residential, you could end up at RAP, Second Genesis, Salvation Army or several other residential programs.
However, what we ask is that if you come here – once you do an initial interview – you have an honest desire to want to change your life. Don’t come here because the judge told you to, or you’re trying to beat a case, or your family’s after you or the family’s trying to get you to do it – “you” have to want to do it. That is a prerequisite. And you can’t tell. People lie for a long time to get what they want in any situation and that doesn’t change because they walked through our doors. We do talk about honesty and we try to get people to understand that honesty is the best way you can live your life. Just make an honest effort to at least listen to what we’re saying, and try it, and go from there.
Destiny – Pride: When you say that they go through “detox,” do they go through it to clean themselves up before they go any further? Could you tell our visitors about that?
Mr.Clark: They spend a period of time without doing any drugs to try to get it out of their system before they begin treatment. When they get here, basically they’ve already been in detox. Now this is another thing about Washington – so many changes, so fast! Detox used to be seven days and 21 days. Detox is about three or four days now, and I heard recently that it might become one or two days. It depends on the drug the person is using, and how much they’re using. Sometimes people may come and they’re still kicking, but they’re cut off from what they get at detox. Detox uses methadone to get people off. We use nothing. So if you’ve still got some drugs in your system, as a result of your needing more time, you’re just going to have to deal with it because you might not be able to even get an aspirin here [laughter].
Destiny – Pride: How long does the program run?
Mr.Clark: We have two tracks going on. We have a 28-day and we have a 90-day.
Destiny – Pride: Is there any aftercare?
Mr.Clark: Yes, we have aftercare and we also encourage people to become a part of the Fellowship, NA [Narcotics Anonymous], and AA [Alcoholics Anonymous]. Our aftercare consists of twice weekly meetings to support recovery – what we call “recovery sessions” – where a person can come and share his or her new drug-free experience.
Destiny – Pride: It’s my understanding that you’re working on a new building. Tell us about it.
Mr.Clark: Like a lot of nonprofits, when you have a concept or an idea, you try to find a building so you can develop your concept. Well the TC [Therapeutic Community] has to have a certain kind of building where certain things can take place. Usually you get an old building and you try to make it work. My dream has been to build our own building, and that’s what we’re working on now. We’re going to build our own building and we’re going to design it based on what we have learned over the last 40 years. We’ll have all of the elements that will be needed to help assist a person in turning their lives around, whether it be classrooms, vocational areas for training, computers, food service – all those things that would lead to vocational support and strengthening of the community once they leave here. So we’re going to build a building where that’s available right on the spot.
Destiny – Pride: That sounds very interesting and sounds hopeful that it’s almost getting you back to some of the areas that you had when you were dealing with the one to two year program. I’m glad to hear that. Keep up the good work.
Mr.Clark: It’s going to be a 35-bed residential facility.
Destiny – Pride: That sounds great! Do you have any final thoughts or words of wisdom to give our visitors?
Mr. Clark: Yes. I think the attitude about “once an addict, always an addict” is still out there. It’s been said for many, many years. I think there’s more information now than ever before – and probably more families, unfortunately, have been affected in some way. There are not too many people today who haven’t had some problem of addiction in their family. Maybe not even drug addiction, but someother addiction. There is treatment available, and it does work. People need to understand that. It takes the community to support programs. Let me also say this. The most important thing is that everybody has made mistakes in their life, so who’s to say that a man or woman shouldn’t be given an opportunity to see if they can change?
I thank Destiny – Pride for this opportunity to have a candid conversation about RAP’s beginnings and the experiences that shaped my vision. I also want people to know that today, RAP offers a wide range of services to this community.
RAP is a not-for-profit health care and human services agency specializing in residential substance abuse treatment; HIV/AIDS and mental health services; emergency housing; nutritional counseling; and out-patient primary medical care. The clients we serve include the homeless and formerly incarcerated individuals. For all of our clients and the community, our overarching mission is to promote and enhance human health –physically, spiritually, emotionally and socially.
We have been proud to serve for 40 years and hope to continue to serve for as long as we are needed.
Destiny – Pride: Destiny – Pride thanks you, Ron, for taking the time to share with us your life’s story, to introduce to some and bring others up to date regarding your wonderful organization, Regional Addiction Prevention, Inc. which has – for exactly 40 years this month of June – been a beacon of hope to many of our city’s residents who, without you and your services, may have been overlooked or given up as hopeless. Happy 40th Anniversary!
Additional information of Mr. Clark and his program may be found by visiting http://www.rapinc.org/ and clicking here for his bio.