Our Beginning: National Council on Alcoholism

Our story begins in 1935 with the courage of one woman. Marty Mann started her journey to recovery through a little known group called Alcoholics Anonymous, where her sponsor was AA cofounder Bill Wilson. After Marty got sober in 1940, she was inspired to encourage others—especially women—to do the same. Looking beyond her own sobriety, she wanted to eliminate the stigma and tackle the ignorance that surrounded alcoholism.

She founded an organization – today called, National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) in 1945, to do all that the fellowship of AA could not do – advocate and educate publicly – all across the country to end stigma and help those impacted by alcoholism (and later other drugs). Marty made two critical policy decisions. The organization would:

  1. Approach addiction as a medical issue.
  2. Change attitudes and create understanding through public education.

Marty Mann, founder of NCADD. Picture courtesy of NCADD.

In 1957, a group of volunteers formed the Bay Area affiliate of NCADD; which became known as The National Council on Alcoholism and other Drug Addictions – Bay Area (NCA-BA).

The purpose of the non-profit has always been to respond to the unmet needs in our communities to reduce the prevalence and consequences of alcoholism and drug addiction.

NCA-BA pursued that purpose in San Francisco for nearly 6 decades through providing direct services, such as offering DUI and drug diversion programs for individuals who were mandated to attend class by courts and the California DMV, as well as through counseling, prevention education, and other community outreach efforts.

As the year’s progressed, resources for those affected by addiction sprung up across the community.  From detox, intervention to treatment – there were many options for those seeking immediate relief.  Not that this was sufficient – however it became clear to us that the majority of programs were short-term and crisis oriented while there was an absence of support for those who had found sobriety or those making harm reduction choices.

In 2015, inline with NCA-BA’s founding purpose, the leadership team decided to reposition the organization to fill the void and become the leading proponent of long-term recovery from addiction. We committed ourselves to take on stigma as a key barrier for those seeking treatment, help and dignity.

Today: Center for Open Recovery

Our purpose today is both an evolution from, and a recommitment to, founder Marty Mann’s vision: “to help individuals, families and entire communities discover a path of recovery.”

As of July 2017, COR’s operating model shifted to focus on tackling stigma and championing long-term recovery through advocacy, education, and empowering experiences.  Rather than continuing to offer direct services from a bricks & mortar location, COR re-directed active clients to other local providers, let go of government contracts and become a virtual organization, substantially reducing overhead while increasing the ability to be innovative, nimble and responsive.

COR’s trailblazing work is funded 100% by the generosity of donors and philanthropic partners, who understand the dire need to disrupt stigma, as a barrier to addressing the addiction crisis in our country.

COR introduction of the paradigm of  ‘Open Recovery,’ has offered a proud identity for those in recovery – who had been marginalized and silenced due to the associated stigma with addiction.  Open Recovery is an opportunity for those impacted by this disease to claim their shared belonging – to be part of a powerful movement of change – reaching affecting tens of millions of people seeking freedom from addiction and the stigma associated.