Public Comment

Options Recovery Services — Fighting the Good Fight

By George Beier
Tuesday December 11, 2007

Dan McMullan’s charges against Options Recovery (see last Tuesday’s Commentary) are simply baseless and cannot go unchallenged. 

Let’s take a quick look at the facts.  

Our Facilities: Options operates a free-of-charge drug and alcohol recovery center out of its offices at 1931 Center St. (the old, once-glamorous Veterans Building near City Hall). The building, which requires an extensive earthquake retrofit, also houses facilities for BOSS and the Berkeley Food and Housing Project. Most of Options’ classes take place on the old ballroom floor, and the staff is crowded onto the stage. In addition to this building, Options operates a mental health clinic and has four clean-and-sober group living homes housing 55 clients. We also operate a car wash to supplement our shoestring budget. (Might I suggest that car wash gift certificates are the perfect holiday gift!) 

Our Clients: Eighty percent of our clients are from Berkeley—not “mostly Oakland” as claimed by Mr. McMullan. Sixty-two percent of our clients are homeless when they enter the program. 99 percent of Options clients are classified has having extremely low or poverty-level income. About 60 percent of our clients are African American, about 30 percent are white, and the rest are Hispanic, Native American, or Asian.  

Our Program: The program is a year long, and consists of detox referral, denial management, a three-phase recovery program, and aftercare. We have about 250 men and women in the program at any given time and see about 800 clients a year. If necessary, we also offer housing in our group homes, coordinated mental health services, and acupuncture. Our recidivism rates are consistently significantly better than state and national averages. Yet Mr. McMullan calls our graduations ceremonies “smoke and mirrors.” Such an insult to the clients who’ve made the tough passage from addiction to recovery! Please come and see for yourself. The tears of pride and determination, the joyful reunification of families—some things just can’t be faked.  

Our Funding: Almost all of our funding comes from foundations, state reimbursements, and private contributions. In addition to free use of the Veterans Building, Options receives about $50,000 annually from the City of Berkeley, which ranks it in the lower-tier of Berkeley-sponsored non-profits. We have recently been budgeted for receiving up to $200,000, though this depends on the actual availability of those funds in the future. 

Our Board: Options is committed to using the system that we have. We believe that all of us—from service providers to the criminal justice system—are partners in the fight against substance abuse. Reforming the system—rather than fighting it—is the most pragmatic way to help our clients get back on their feet. For this reason, our board and donors consist of service providers, police officers, retired judges, probation officers and committed citizens.  

My Role: I joined the board because I wanted to be part of the solution for Telegraph Avenue and People’s Park. (It’s also categorically untrue—and just plain mean—to suggest that I “whipped up fear and hatred for the poor and homeless” in my campaign for the City Council. Really, Dan.) Over the last six months, I’ve spent hundreds of hours getting the database on-line so that we can be more efficient and see more clients each year. 

As for Dr. Davida Coady, the executive director, there’s no doubt that she’s a passionate advocate for the program and is working hard to shake up the status quo. She’s got a quick smile and a quick tongue. But there’s also no doubt that she gives selflessly of her time, money, and heart. And as the bumper sticker says, “well behaved women rarely make history.” Rock on, DC! 

Finally, on a personal note, I hope that all of Options’ volunteers and staff realize that for every Dan McMullan there are thousands of Options supporters. To paraphrase the Serenity Prayer, we’ve got to accept the things we cannot change—there will always be a few detractors. But there are many things we can change. We can work hard every day to help our clients get off drugs and on their feet (many of you know first-hand how difficult this struggle is). We can help our clients get into housing and get their kids back. We can try to rectify the injustices of an often unfair world—one client at a time, one day at a time. 

You are all doing good work and fighting the good fight. Keep the faith. 


George Beier is a board member and volunteer for Options Recovery Services.