About Us

Stop Stigma Now Board of Directors

STOP STIGMA NOW (SSN) is a group of active professionals affiliated with OUD research and treatment, with decades of experience in the treatment of substance use disorders, dedicated to ending the pervasive and ongoing stigma targeting medication treatment, the treatment programs and in particular the patients.

Some members of our Board of Directors are people who have worked with Dr’s Vincent Dole, Maria Nyswander and Mary Jeanne Kreek, the developers of the first effective OUD medication treatment in the late1960’s and early 1970’s.

Executive Board Members

Sy Demsky

Sy Demsky is also President of the Board of National Development Research Inc. (NDRI-USA.) He collaborated on eight grants and studies with NDRI. Sy was the Director of The Mount Sinai Hospital’s Narcotics Rehabilitation Center from 1970 to 2001 when he retired. From 1975 to 1999 he was the President and CEO of Auto Assess, Inc., a computerized testing company in the field of addiction.

He is the owner and President of Sy Demsky & Associates, a Health Care & Consulting Company. Sy was a member of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Substance Abuse, and the founder and first President of the New York State Committee of Methadone Program Administrators (COMPA.) He has received many distinguished awards, including the Dole/Nyswander Award for outstanding lifetime service to the addiction field, and the Unsung Hero Award from the notable Carron Foundation.

John Phillips


John F. Phillips is the Co-Founder of Creative Socio-Medics Corp. (now Netsmart Technologies) the leading patient information company in Behavioral Health and Addictions. Started in 1968 it is one of the oldest software companies in the world. John was responsible for hundreds of information systems projects over the forty years before his retirement, and is now responsible for systems and automation in SSN.

Robert Sage, PhD
Vice President


Dr. Sage has worked in the field of chemical dependency since 1973. His work with the Addiction Research and Treatment Corporation (ARTC) included serving as a clinician, trainer, and researcher; Coordinator of Mental Health Services; Vice President of Treatment Services; and Senior Vice President. He was responsible for program development and implementation, clinic operations, treatment services, staff training, and compliance issues for ARTC’s seven methadone maintenance treatment programs and two medically supervised drug-free programs, serving more than 3,000 patients. Dr. Sage has also been responsible for facilitating the implementation of psychosocial research conducted by ARTC’s Research Division. In exercising similar administrative responsibilities for programs managed by ARTC’s affiliated agency, the Urban Resource Institute (URI), he also supervised research and evaluation studies for URI’s alcoholism treatment program and domestic violence shelters. Dr.Sage also served as a Program Surveyor for CARF, the agency that provides national accreditation for medication assisted treatment programs throughout the United States, and assisted with programs to meet optimal medication assisted treatment standards for opiate addiction treatment. Dr. Sage has presented at numerous local and national conferences and conducts, presented, and published research and evaluation studies.

Joe Lunievicz, BS, RYT

2nd Vice President

Is a project director for the National Drug Court Institute (NDCI), a division of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP).  The former executive director of NDRI-USA and deputy executive director for programs at ACRIA, Mr. Lunievicz specializes in the translation of research into practice. He has 30 years’ experience in technical assistance and training in drug treatment, including medication-assisted treatment (MAT), harm reduction, and HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention. Mr. Lunievicz was previously a consultant conducting capacity building with not-for-profits nationally, and he is co-vice president of the board of directors for the nonprofit Stop Stigma Now, focused on the social justice issues of the opioid epidemic and the stigma of both opioid use and the MATs used to treat opioid use disorders.

Valerie C. Walters

President & Chief Executive Officer at the Lower Eastside Service
Center, Inc. (LESC)


Walters joined LESC more than 22 years ago as the Vice President of Human Resources.  During her tenure as VP she was responsible for all the human resources functions and serving as principal advisor to the CEO and leadership team on organization design and development, goal setting, policy development, risk management and strategic implementation in support of achieving corporate objectives and business growth.

In 2014 she became the President & CEO at LESC.

Under her leadership, permanent supportive housing provided by the agency has increased, providing additional housing for 98 homeless individuals.  Organizational budget has increased over 16 million and six (6) programs were added to the LESC roster, to include early HIV intervention, a Women’s Wellness Program, expanded services to the population to include care coordination and affiliation with a FQHC to provide HIV testing and primary care services.  More recently the state approved LESC as a lead for a Behavioral Health Care Collaborative (BHCC) to participate in the New York State Behavioral Health Value Based Payment Readiness Program (BH VBP).

Prior to joining LESC, she held positions at SCI Business School/WAE Corporation as Assistant Administrator and Director of Student Services and Director of Vocational Services at American Business Institute (ABI).  Walters was a high school Mathematics teacher for 15 years.

Ms. Walters earned her M.B.A. in Organizational Behavior and Management at C.W. Post Long Island University, a B.A. in Business Management from Lehman College, and holds certifications in Human Resources, Executive Leadership Support for Nonprofit Management, and Methods of Occupational Instruction.  B.A. in Education.

Joycelyn Woods, MA, CMA


Joycelyn Sue Woods has a degree in neuroscience and did some of the early work on opiate receptor mapping. A methadone patient advocate for over thirty years working with the Committee of Concerned Methadone Patients (CCMP), she helped to establish the Association of ex-Drug Addicts for Prevention and Treatment (ADAPT) and the National Alliance for Medication Assisted Recovery (NAMA Recovery). She has served on policy making committees including patient representative for methadone and buprenorphine regulations. She is a recipient of the Richard Lane-William Holden Patient Advocacy Award, and the Drug Information Association (DIA) Fellowship. Joycelyn is the Project Coordinator for the MARS Project and Executive Director of NAMA Recovery where she serves as liaison to SSN.

Steven Rabinowitz


Retired at the end of 2016 after 30 years of service at NY State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), where he spent the last 12 years as the Director of Downstate Field Operations, and now works as Special Projects Coordinator for Argus Community, as well as an independent consultant in the addiction services field.   Besides the Stop Stigma Now Board of Directors he also serves on the advisory groups for End Overdose NY and Our Jewish Recovery.  He is a native of New York City.

Board Members

Joe Adams, MD
W. Calvin Anderson, MEd
  • Valentin Bonilla Jr., PA
  • Juan Colon
  • David Cruz
  • Brenda Davis, MSW
  • David Hudson, MSW
  • Robert Krauss
  • David Lichtenstein
  • Robert Lubran, MPA
  • Joseph Lunievicz
  • Susan Ohanesian
  • Philip Paris, MD
  • Steve Rabinowitz
  • Desire Renaud, EdD
  • Joan E. Standora, Ph.D
  • Susan Staats Combs
  • Kathleen Yee, Esq.

Advisory Committee

  • Melissa Freeman, MD
  • David Hutson
  • Steven Magura, PhD
  • Denise McIntee
  • David M. Novick, MD
  • Yngvild Olsen, MD
  • Andrew Rosenblum, PhD
  • Alex Wodak, MD

In Memoriam

  • Kathleen Coughlin 2015-2019 John Galea 2013-2018
  • Herman Joseph, PhD, 2002-2019
  • Elizabeth Khuri, MD, 2002-2017
  • Robert Newman, MD, 2002-2018
  • Beny Primm, MD 2002-2015
  • Barry Stimmel, MD 2002-2015

SSN representatives

SSN has representatives in the following states:

• Alabama• Arkansas• California• Georgia• Maryland• Massachusetts
Michigan• New Jersey • New York• North Carolina • Oregon• Pennsylvania • Virginia • Washington
And also, around the world in:
• Australia • Ireland • Italy • The Netherlands

If you would like to be a representative for SSN in your state or country, please let us know sending us an email with your intention. Click here


Stop Stigma Now (SSN), consisting of active and retired professionals, and patients, is a think tank that delivers trusted insight on the benefits of medication treatment for opioid use disorder (MOUD) and educates the wider public on the stigma associated with MOUD.

Our agenda is simple: to help stop the stigma and prejudice directed at both the treatment and the patients.

Stop Stigma Now was established to change prevailing attitudes towards people suffering from opioid use disorder (OUD), which are preventing them from entering into and remaining in treatment.

While many treatments for OUD exist, (i.e., medication treatment, in-patient rehabilitation, therapeutic communities, outpatient counseling,) the use of medications (methadone, buprenorphine and extended-release naltrexone) has repeatedly been documented to be the most effective. Compared to other treatments, patients maintained on medication are less likely to relapse, acquire infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C, and die from an opioid overdose. Unfortunately, these medications – especially the agonist medications (methadone and buprenorphine) – have been misunderstood and criticized as substituting one addiction for another. Agonist medications for OUD block the craving for opioids and suppress opioid withdrawal thus enabling the return to full functioning and a normal life.

Because OUD patients may have other problems such as a history of trauma, other addictive disorders, chronic pain and other psycho-social problems, medication treatment often includes counseling and other support services as needed or indicated.

All treatments should be respected. However, for persons with OUD, non-medication approaches to treatment that do not include MOUD, whether it be abstinence, or detox, or in or out-patient treatment, fall short of the effectiveness of MOUD, thus may put individuals in a dangerous situation which can result in relapse, overdose and death.

SSN exists to inform the general public, the court system, public officials, medical, nursing and counseling professions and the media about the overwhelming scientific evidence supporting the success of medication treatment for opioid use disorder.

By eradicating stigma, we save and rebuild lives. It’s as simple as that!

SSN creates, designs, develops and distributes educational materials (books, pamphlets, posters, ads, cards and buttons, etc.) to help organizations effectively respond to concerns voiced by public officials, medical professionals, the media, the courts and the community at large.

All materials and services are free at SSN

SSN is a 501c3 not for profit organization, and has no paid staff.


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