May 6, 2022 – On May 3, staff from Richmond University Medical Center’s Gamblers Treatment Program were joined by community leaders to celebrate the program’s 40th anniversary. Founded on May 3, 1982, RUMC’s Gamblers Treatment Program was the first gambling specific state funded outpatient program in New York State and is now the longest serving gamblers treatment program in the entire state. Since its inception, the Gamblers Treatment Program has assisted nearly 5,000 individuals with their gambling addiction.
“Since the inception of the Gamblers Treatment Program, the challenges associated with treating gambling disorders have grown,” Joanne Pietro RN, Assistant Vice President, Behavioral Health Services at RUMC, said. “The program has sought to meet these challenges that have accompanied the expansion of gambling in all forms over the last 40 years. For most people, gambling can be a benign, recreational activity. However, individuals that have a gambling disorder and for their families, it can be a debilitating illness that has significant psychosocial consequences.”
Provided out of RUMC’s Center for Integrative Behavioral Medicine, located at 1130 South Avenue, the Gamblers Treatment Program is certified by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH). The program offers individuals a comprehensive evaluation including psychiatric assessment, individual, marital, family and group therapy, medication management, and crisis intervention.
“Problem gambling, in many ways, is just as harmful as many of the physical conditions we treat, like cancer and heart disease,” RUMC President and Chief Executive Officer, Daniel J. Messina, PhD, FACHE, said. “It can be debilitating to the individual…it affects more than just the person, spreading to impact family and loved ones…and it can continue to grow, quickly getting out of control, with devastating and long-lasting ramifications. While times have certainly changed, one thing has remained constant: the mission of the Gamblers Treatment Program. It remains the same today as it did 40 years ago: to provide help for those adversely affected by problem gambling, as well as their families and loved ones; and for four decades that is exactly what it has been doing.”
The Gamblers Treatment Program was created through the vision of former Staten Island Assembly Member Elizabeth Connelly, Dr. Sheldon Blackman, and Donald Thoms. Assembly Member Connelly was then the Chair of the Assembly Committee on Mental Health, Intellectual Disabilities/Developmental Disabilities, and Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. As Chair of the Committee, she proposed the development of a new program to treat problem gamblers and their families. Dr. Sheldon Blackman, was Director of Program Development at St. Vincent’s Hospital, which is now known as Richmond University Medical Center; and Donald Thoms, would become the first director of the Gamblers Treatment Program.
Thoms was among the dignitaries on hand to participate in the 40th anniversary celebration. Joining him was Joel A. Idowu, MD, DFAPA, Chairman of RUMC’s Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences; Dr. Ginny Mantello, Director of Health and Wellness for the Office of Staten Island Borough President Vito Fossella; and William Matarazzo, representing New York State Senator Andrew Lanza.
For more information on the Gamblers Treatment Program, interested individuals can call 718-876-1285.