About Us

Stop Stigma Now Board of Directors

STOP STIGMA NOW (SSN) is a group of professionals affiliated with opioid use disorder (OUD) research or treatment, and people with lived experience and their families, dedicated to ending the harmful stigma affecting medication treatment of people with OUD.

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 Committee

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.

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.

Susan Staats Combs, M.Ed, LPC, NCC, PhT

2nd Vice President

Susan Staats Combs has worked in the field of Opioid Use Treatment since December of 1993.
She has owned and operated methadone clinics and has been the President of her Alabama Methadone Association  (2013-present) She has Co-served on the National AATOD Board as a Alabama Representative for many years. She has served on Alabama Governors Opioid Council since the origination (2016). She serves on the Alabama Substance Abuse Coordinating Committee appointed by the Governor, and serves on the Alabama Opioid Data, Treatment and Workforce Committees. She has worked tirelessly to help make sure persons have access to treatment and reduce stigma in Alabama. She advocates for patient rights within the judicial and medical system on regular basis to assure access and educate the systems all which saves lives. She is American Red Cross Volunteer Instructor (1984 -present) and Children’s Hospital of Alabama Volunteer (1990- present) .

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.

David Lichentenstein


David Lichtenstein is the Stop Stigma Now Treasurer and is on the Executive Board. He is also
on the Website and Social Media Committee. Mr. Lichtenstein is a professional engineer in the
State of New York. He retired after 30 years as an electrical construction engineer.


Board Members

Phillip Appel, PhD
Valentin Bonilla, PA 
H. Westley Clark, MD, JD, MPH
Juan Colon
David Cruz
Brenda Davis, MSW
Sharon Dow
Robert Krauss
Robert Lubran, MPA
Maria Pasceri
Gideon Rabino
Desire Renaud, EdD
Robert Sage, PhD
Joycelyn Woods

Advisory Committee

  • Joseph A. Adams MD, FASAM
  • W. Calvin Anderson MS. ED.
  • Melissa Freeman, MD
  • David Hutson
  • Steven Magura, PhD
  • Denise McIntee
  • David M. Novick, MD
  • Philip Paris, MD
  • Andrew Rosenblum, PhD
  • Joan Standora, 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) was formed in 2007 by professionals with years of experience in opioid addiction treatment or research, and includes people with lived experience and their families, now with representation from 22 U.S. states and five countries.


We are dedicated to ending negative attitudes, misunderstanding and discrimination against life-saving medication treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD). Due to ‘Medication Stigma,’ ineffective treatment is the norm. Most U.S. residential treatment providers limit or prohibit access to medications for OUD, and many or most recovery residences do the same.

We are all ethically bound to offer services most likely to be effective for the great majority of those with OUD. This means medication as the foundation of treatment, and often of recovery. Psychosocial services (counseling) should always be available, but are ineffective for the great majority with OUD unless used with medication. For those with moderate to severe OUD we need a ‘Medication First’ approach for those who choose this (which is not ‘Medication Only’). OUD is unique among substance use disorders in that medications are the primary effective treatment for the great majority of those affected.

Those seeking treatment for OUD have a right to accurate information about all approved treatment options. SSN is respectful of each individual’s right to make their own informed choices.


SSN fights to ensure that society – finally – stops promoting ineffective treatment for OUD. We prevent unnecessary suffering and death by reducing the stigma, misunderstanding and discrimination that limits access to our most effective treatments: medications for OUD, including the first-line medications
methadone and buprenorphine, as well as injectable naltrexone as an important option.

SSN disseminates clear and accurate print, video and social resources on the scientific consensus for the primary role of medications for OUD. We do this through presentations, advocacy, exhibits at professional conferences, and open dialog with treatment, recovery and health providers, policy makers, criminal legal professionals, and the public, including those who use opioids and their families. For a unique collection of video stories of people with lived experience, visit www.stopstigmanow.org. We reduce the greatest barrier preventing people with OUD from understanding and accessing our most effective, life-saving treatments.

Please consider supporting SSN with a donation of any amount, or become a member as an individual or agency. We are volunteer-run and depend on individual contributions to continue our work.
Stop Stigma Now is an independent 501c3 nonprofit organization.  




We are a public information group of dedicated drug treatment professionals determined to eliminate the stigma against medication treatment for opioid use disorder which negatively impacts anyone taking methadone and other medications used to treat opioid use disorder.

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

We must eliminate the stigma which undermines the efficacy of medication treatment for opioid use disorder. 




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