After 39 years, Kathleen Riddle, founder, president and CEO of Outreach, the non-profit substance abuse treatment organization with deep roots in Queens, will retire.
Riddle, who will continue to serve Outreach in a part-time, advisory role, announced her retirement in Spring 2018, while also introducing her successor, Debra Pantin, former CEO of VIP Community Services. Following an extensive executive search and Board selection process, Pantin joined Outreach in early June, working with Riddle, who will formally step down on June 30th.
Kathleen Riddle’s vision began more than 40 years ago when she recognized the need for adolescent treatment while working in the New York City school system as a drug counselor for a Queens middle school. Outreach began in a Glendale, Queens storefront, with three employees and a $60,000 budget. Originally named “Outreach Project,” staff members worked in the communities of Eastern and Western Queens, visiting and engaging individuals who were struggling with addiction, and connecting them to treatment.
Through her early efforts, Outreach opened New York State’s first specialized residential substance abuse facility to serve children as young as 12 years old, in Ridgewood, Queens. She continued on to start niche programs for adolescents (outpatient and residential), women, women with children, and adults. Riddle also helped create the Outreach Training Institute, an educational arm of the organization that trains Certified Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselors to enter the behavioral health workforce, and provides professional development opportunities to clinicians in the field.
Since its origins, the non-profit has grown into a nationally recognized organization with eight primary locations, 300 employees and a budget of $24 million, serving more than 4,000 people annually. Rallying the construction and real estate industry and trades to assist with the building of treatment facilities in Queens and on Long Island, Outreach continues to grow, with several capital projects underway.
Beyond Outreach, Riddle has worked tirelessly as an advocate for behavioral health treatment throughout New York State. She has held leading roles for the New York State Association of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers (ASAP) and Therapeutic Communities of Association (TCA) of New York, both for which she served as president for many years, and continues to serve on the executive board. She has also served on the board of Treatment Communities of America as an executive officer.
“It is with mixed emotion, joy, pride, sadness and relief that I step back from my lead role at Outreach,” said Riddle. “Serving as the leader of this incredible organization has been the greatest honor of my life. This decision, while difficult for any of us, is made easier by knowing the extraordinary capabilities and commitment of our Boards of Directors, our leadership and staff. It if further aided by the selection of an exceptional leader in the field, Debra Pantin.”
“Kathy Riddle is an icon in this area of behavioral health,” said Pantin. “It will be a challenge to fill her role at Outreach, but I vow to continue the fight to recognize treatment as a critical measure to address the life challenges stemming from addiction that allows people and their families to recover and move on to healthy lives. This is especially important, at a time when opiate abuse is such a widespread problem in New York State and beyond. My challenge will be to fight for more treatment slots, more funding and more recognition for treatment as an alternative to incarceration, which we know is better for families and society as whole.”
If you or someone you know needs help with a drug or alcohol problem, please call Outreach, with locations in New York City and Long Island, at 718-847-9233, or visit opiny.org.
Over 35 years ago, Outreach opened its doors as a small assessment and referral center to engage people in the community struggling with addiction to seek help. Since then, its mission has evolved to meet more needs and more communities. Today, Outreach inspires adolescents, adults, and their families to achieve a life of unlimited potential through high-quality, evidence-based substance abuse treatment and training programs throughout New York City and Long Island.