Statement by Joseph A. Califano, Jr., on the Passing of Dr. Herbert D. Kleber | Center on Addiction

Statement by Joseph A. Califano, Jr., on the Passing of Dr. Herbert D. Kleber

Statement by Joseph A. Califano, Jr., Founder of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University,* on the Passing of Dr. Herbert D. Kleber

New York, N.Y., October 10, 2018

Dr. Herbert D. Kleber, my friend and colleague of many years who helped found the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA) in 1992, died at the age of 84 while on vacation with his family on the island of Santorini in Greece. Herb was an extraordinarily brilliant and kind psychiatrist and the nation’s top expert on the treatment of opioid, stimulant, cannabis and alcohol disorders.

In founding CASA, I searched the world to find the greatest expert in the field and soon learned that Herb Kleber was the most highly respected, dedicated and talented professional in the treatment and prevention of this disease. Together we discussed establishing CASA with several universities and eventually settled on Columbia University, where Dr. Herb Pardes was Vice President for Health, and agreed that the nation needed a think/action center that placed under one roof all the skills needed to inform Americans of the economic and social costs of substance use disorder and its impact on their lives; assess what works in prevention, treatment and law enforcement; encourage every individual and institution to take responsibility to combat this disease; provide those on the front lines with the tools they need to succeed; and remove the stigma of substance abuse, and replace shame and despair with hope.

Herb had capped a brilliant career of research and treatment at Yale where he became known as the top psychiatrist in the nation in his field. In 1989 he was named Deputy Director for Demand Reduction at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy under its first director, William Bennett. From this position he came to CASA and Columbia where he created the Division of Substance Abuse at Columbia University Medical Center.

Herb Kleber committed his many talents not only to helping individual patients suffering from substance use disorder, but also to alerting parents and professionals to the destructive dangers of these wrenching diseases and the most effective ways of preventing and treating it. His legacy will be the trained generations of professionals who will carry on his work, and the thousands of lives that have been saved. I count myself so fortunate to have had him as a friend and colleague for a quarter of a century.   

*Joseph A. Califano, Jr. was U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare in the Carter Administration and President Lyndon Johnson’s chief assistant for domestic affairs.

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