Methadone Maintenance Program

Methadone Maintenance Program

The Methadone Maintenance Program was developed by Gordon Chase, health services administrator under Mayor John Lindsay. When Chase was appointed to this position in 1969, he had no direct responsibility for programs to combat heroin use. The unit then responsible for addicts was the Addiction Services Agency (ASA). Its approach was to encourage abstinence from heroin through supervised voluntary therapeutic communities operating under strict discipline. Another agency, the State Narcotics Addiction Control Commission, forcibly confined addicts in expensive treatment centers. There were also two private programs that tried to shift the addict’s craving from heroin to an inexpensive synthetic drug called methadone. One was located at the Beth Israel Hospital, the other at the Addiction Research and Treatment Corporation (ARTC).

Shortly after taking office, Gordon chase decided that not enough was being done to treat the 100,000 or more heroin addicts on the streets of New York. Lacking formal authority to undertake new programs but believing that he personally should take action to fill the treatment gap, Chase resolved to establish a methadone maintenance treatment program. His first move was to send the mayor’s Narcotics Control Council a proposal to treat 15,600 addicts in less than one year. This number was inflated, but Chase thought that his memorandum would help to get key officials to think in terms of large programs and would create momentum. Then even before the mayor authorized him to do so and before funds were available, he began to recruit a dynamic capable staff. The head of the new Bureau of Methadone Maintenance was Dr. Robert Newman, who was handpicked by Chase. Newman kept up the momentum by opening clinics in existing institutions, maintaining control and accountability through a tight monitoring and reporting system, pressing to meet deadlines, and working to overcome community opposition to clinics for “junkies.” By June 1971, the city’s methadone programs had treated 6,000 addicts, and by January 1974 the figure had risen to over 20,000. Moreover, the apparent success of this effort had stimulated the Beth Israel Hospital to expand its intake of patients.


1. Do you believe (in your opinion and using course readings) that the administrator, Gordon Chase overstepped the limits of administrative discretion or did he act properly – explain your stance by providing a base for your argument.

2. What assumptions are you making?
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