Special Announcements -

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     CODAC has recently reached an agreement with The Rhode Island Lottery Commission to provide treatment services for individuals with problems associated with gambling.   This is an interim agreement subject to the issuance of a Request for Proposals (RFP) and an award made to a permanent provider. 
In the meantime, CODAC staff, along with independent practitioners, will provide assessment, treatment, and referral services to un- and under-insured Rhode Islander's at locations in Providence, Cranston, East Providence, and Newport.  Other locations will be added.
For further information, please call CODAC's Cranston office (401-461-5056) for additional details.




Steve Peligian, DO: A Remembrance-11/16/15

Today we learned that Steve Peligian, Dr. Steve to some, Dr. P to others, died in a tragic car accident.

 As we look at our history, we have been extremely fortunate to have had incredibly talented and committed Medical Directors who dedicated their careers to providing and improving care to Rhode Islanders living with opioid dependence.  Few will remember that Steve was a member of our Board of Directors and first became involved with CODAC through his work at Cranston General Hospital.  Many of our older patients will remember Drs. Alexander and Amicarelli who helped create the early stages of our methadone treatment program.  When Dr. Amicarelli was ready to retire, he was instrumental in selecting Dr. Steve as our third Medical Director.  He was preparing to mentor and train Steve to be his successor when  he became ill and was unable to so.

Steve took it upon himself to learn all he could in a very short time and,  to his credit, really hit the ground running.  I have never met anyone who was able to learn so much, so fast and be able to use that knowledge so quickly.  He was a wonderful man and a remarkably talented physician.  He knew as much, if not more about opioid dependence, methadone, and the complexities of this disease than anyone I have ever known.

He was a voracious reader, always looking to expand his knowledge and understanding of addiction.   Dr. P made it a point to know as much about each patient as he did about research and matters related to the other illnesses and the complications faced by our patients.  He had the surprising ability to remember details about each person and was able to translate those details into a compassionate understanding of the medical challenges they faced.  I believe that this ability, the ability to see the connection between the big and even the smallest or most obscure  symptoms, literally saved the lives of countless patients.  His insight and skill in “connecting these dots” was unmatched.

Many of us, patients and staff, will agree that working with him, or being his patient was a challenge.  He was opinionated and often stubborn.  But his opinions and stubbornness were most often based on what was his desire to provide the best and most informed care.  He so wanted each and every patient to succeed in their recovery. He was highly respected outside of CODAC. 

Like Drs. Alexander and Amicarelli before him, he was often sought out by other practitioners for his expertise and advice.  He had a passion for sharing information and was a great teacher and mentor.

Although he retired from CODAC due to illness, he never lost his interest in addressing the issues of stigma and discrimination facing patients in Medication Assisted Treatment.

 Physicians like Dr. Steve are hard to find.  In some respects, his work at CODAC was his life.  We remember him as a man passionately committed and dedicated to providing his patients with skilled and compassionate care. We also remember him as  the Doc with the leather vest, the Harley and shades who made a difference in the lives of so many.

There are many patients who will remember Dr. Peligian and may want to share their experiences and grief.  For our new staff who never worked with Steve,  the history and background above may provide some perspective and insight into the role he played and the loss some patients may feel.

In the past 26 months, CODAC has lost five giants who have meant so much to our success and to the recovery of thousands – John Sardelli, Norm MacKay, Anthony Amicarelli, Jim Gillen, and Steve Peligian.  They were each committed to the highest level of care and had that unique and natural ability to make everyone feel special and respected. There are not enough words to acknowledge all they did and to say how much they will be missed. 

JIM GILLEN July 18, 2015


Jim Gillen passed away this weekend (July 18, 2015) after a years long, and hard-fought battle. 

 If you’re new to CODAC, you probably don’t know that Jim worked at CODAC Providence as a counselor and recovery advocate from 2002-2008.


But he was a counselor and more while with us.  “Catfish Jim” brought an energy, enthusiasm, and optimism that was unmatched by many.  He was able to see the talent and the good in everyone.  He had a sense and vision of recovery that was a breath of fresh air.  He insisted on making the concept of recovery something that everyone could relate to and understand.


I’d like to think that while he had been, and continued, to be an active member of Rhode Island’s recovery community and RICares, some of the early and more public face of Rhode Island’s recovery movement started with “Catfish” and the “CODAC All-Stars” which later became the “Recovery All-Stars”.  His vision of recovery, and evident in every public appearance by the  evolving configurations of the ”All-Stars”,  was to promote an ever-increasing understanding and acceptance of Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), especially methadone maintenance.


As a member of the “All-Stars”, (sometimes known as “The World-Famous CODAC All-Stars) it was always exciting to watch him engage and support the way so many patients re-connected with and re-discovered skills that had been long forgotten and subverted.  Equally impressive was the way he made even those with “lesser” talent feel welcome and important.  Each member was encouraged to believe that their performance, participation,  and contribution was their way of giving back.  More than that, they were encouraged to believe that they could be teachers and mentors for those in early recovery.


Jim was not just about the All-Stars.  He also served as a mentor for staff at CODAC, always able to offer insights into recovery and patient engagement that were not part of any organized academic curriculum. 


It was bittersweet when he left CODAC.   However, his subsequent work at The Providence Center and The Anchor has propelled Rhode Island’s recovery movement locally and into national prominence.


Of his days at CODAC,  I remember Jim as larger than life, buckskin jackets and fringes, a little ponytail, leather hats, feathers and talismans, flutes, tireless, a great storyteller, a smile for everyone, Junior's cheese cake, drumming, Gil Scott-Heron, David Bromberg, and all things music.


With his passing, CODAC has lost three recovery giants in the past 2 years.  Jim,  John Sardelli and Norm MacKay – all have made an immeasurable difference in the lives of so many.

His loss is both professional and personal.  It was a pleasure to be with him, a privilege to know him, and an honor to be his friend.      



JOHN R. SARDELLI There is no easy, painless way to acknowledge that John Sardelli died on Saturday, June 8, 2013 after a very serious and rapid illness.   It’s hard to imagine a day or a CODAC  without John since there hasn’t been a day in CODAC's history that hasn’t had John in it.  

 In many ways John represented the character of CODAC.  He was a friend to, and supporter of, patients, and a mentor and teacher to many current and past members of the staff.   He had a smile for everyone and a way of making everyone feel important.  John’s contribution to  CODAC's success is immeasurable.   His goodness and his goodwill have made a lasting impact on CODAC and so many lives.

 And speaking of everyone, I truly believe he did know everyone, or their cousin, or uncle, or godmother.  And he forgot very little – he remembered patients, their families, and their stories.  He was a virtual reference book of CODAC.   

 John had a respectful and unique perspective and insight into patient care, as well as the ability to nurture staff development combined with a great talent to connect with every person.  It was amazing to watch him work and talk with unhappy patients and to see how often he “won them over”.   It was the same as he encouraged many to “hang in” and “not give up”..

 I know there are thousands of patients who have struggled with, developed, and maintained their recovery with John’s counsel, support and good humor.  I believe many believe they “owe” their recovery to his efforts.  I’m sure he would laugh and say “no….you did it!!!”

 John wore many hats at CODAC and did so with enthusiasm, a smile and an understanding of the importance of that role in our mission.  He understood service.  He rarely, if ever, said, “no”.

 For those of you old enough to remember the blizzard of ’78, the State was virtually paralyzed.  Yet John,  along with three other staff members,  walked miles in 3 feet of snow to our Providence site  to make sure no patient  missed a dose.  He understood that a title does not indemnify you from working hard or from knowing how, and being willing and available, to do what needs to be done.

 John was also respected outside of CODAC.  His work at the ACI and the Department of Corrections, at SSTAR, and all his interactions with the other OTPs was a model of collaboration and commitment. 

 Time spent with him was both professional and personal.  Many of us have been influenced and touched by John in our own special way.  I’m sure we will all reserve a place in our hearts for his memory and what his dedication and friendship has meant.

 I have learned that we all grieve and experience loss differently.  In our sadness, I hope we provide each other with support and comfort and remember him with a smile.

 I know I speak for many, but for me, I already miss his intelligence, wisdom, insight, support, warmth, smile, sense of humor and his friendship.  He is surely irreplaceable.



Norm came to CODAC at age 66 in 2005 after a varied career. 

In addition to his work on the Board of Trustees at Spectrum, as well as management and leadership roles in several businesses in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, his maritime interests saw him as a Captain - licensed and authorized to manage and “deliver” yachts - and as the Assistant Harbor Master in North Kingstown. His “sea-going” roles continued until his illness.    It was easy to see him on the bridge as a steady and steadying influence.

Norm was probably the oldest person ever hired at CODAC.  With his age he brought an elegant maturity, genuineness, wisdom, warmth, humility, and compassion.  While knowledgeable in many ways and areas, he was never selfish with that knowledge and shared it readily and with enthusiasm.  At the same time, he never missed an opportunity to learn and understand more. 

Norm started at CODAC South County in 2005 when we were planning to open our medication assisted treatment program.  Due to administrative challenges associated with a “start date” for CODAC South County, he readily accepted a role at CODAC Newport which not only provided him with great training and orientation, but endeared him to all as he quickly became part of the team and enthusiastically embraced the challenge. 

When CODAC South County finally opened, and many patients from South County transferred from Newport, Norm was there to smooth that transition and welcome them to the new CODAC.  Many of you know that CODAC South County went through a number of changes since its opening.  During those periods, Norm was a consistent, friendly, and supportive presence for patients and staff.

For many, his age and personality provided not only calm, but a sense of security and solidness.  And for so many patients, a positive alternative to life’s previous experiences.  He was a nurturer and role model who truly was interested in, and respectful of, every person

Oh, and he could cook!  There were few days when there wasn’t something brewing/simmering in the kitchen.

With his passing, we have lost two valuable contributors to our mission and success.   

Like John Sardelli, who passed away earlier this month, Norm was an ardent and committed advocate for those struggling, developing, and maintaining their recovery. 

They have both left their mark on CODAC.


SUBOXONE TREATMENT SERVICE - Now at CODAC Cranston, Newport and East Bay
CODAC is pleased to announce the availability of Suboxone services for the treatment of opioid dependence at CODAC Cranston, CODAC Newport
and CODAC East Bay.
For information, please call: CODAC Cranston at 401-383-0301, CODAC Newport at 401-619-3414, and CODAC East Bay at 401-434-4999
When weather events are forecast, please monitor this website and/or local TV/radio for updates.
 Note: Radio and TV stations determine when and how often announcements make it into the rotation. Announcements posted for radio and
TV may not appear immediately. On some occasions, public broadcast of announcements may be delayed for 1-2 hours as they focus on school closings.
 CODAC will monitor local and national weather forecasts to determine plans regarding open or close status.
 Please visit this website regularly for news related to storms and/or other weather-related emergencies.

 Announcements on this page are designed to provide information to three (3) groups:

  •  Patients involved in methadone treatment
  • Patients not involved in methadone treatment
  • Staff
 Announcements, which may be different, will be tailored, as much as possible, for each group.  
 Announcements related to closure of our methadone treatment services may not apply to other non-methadone services.  Road, and other conditions may change resulting in full closure or late opening for non-methadone services.
Generally, patients involved in methadone treatment should always consider bringing their Takehome box when storms are predicted in the
event conditions indicate the need to close.
 Announcements will also be made on local television and radio (for example, Operation Snowball on radio 630WPROAM).
CODAC advises everyone to be prepared for emergencies.
 This includes having adequate supplies of:
  • prescription medication
  • water
  • batteries, etc.
 We encourage everyone to exercise good judgement, drive carefully, and pay serious attention to public safety announcements
 Click below for CODAC'S weather related emergency planning  which will be updated as news develops
CODAC also posts and updates announcements through the Rhode Island Broadcasters service.
These announcements can be found, streaming, on most television and radio stations and their websites.
On behalf of the Anniversary Committee, Board, staff, and those we serve, we want to thank everyone for their generous sponsorship of our 40th Anniversary Celebration. Over 250 colleagues
and friends of CODAC attended this celebration  at the Crowne Plaza.  We are pleased that  Governor Chafee was able to join us as we recognized CODAC's 40 years of outstanding service in Rhode Island. 
We also were honored to have video remarks from Senators Reed and Whitehouse.


The financial support of our celebration sponsors, as well as revenues generated from registration and a very successful silent auction, will assist us in
continuing to provide exceptional and respected addiction and behavioral healthcare services.


As a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, contributions to CODAC are tax deductible.  
The following articles appeared in the Newport Daily News and Cranston Herald, respectively.
Newport Daily News 11/19/11 - A dose of support: By James J. Gillis, Daily News staff
NEWPORT — People take different roads to CODAC III, but every road is a rough one.  The behavioral health care center — which has five Rhode Island locations —
is celebrating its 40th anniversary this month. It has operated Newport branches during that time on Bellevue Avenue, Spring Street and Thames Street, where it’s run an office since 1988.
“I think we’ve become an accepted part of the community,” said chief executive officer and program director Linda Hurley.
“When you walk in here, it doesn’t look any different from any other medical clinic you’d see.”
The difference is that CODAC III deals largely with people addicted to opiates, providing counseling and dispensing methadone.
It also runs a smoking-cessation program and other behavior modification treatment. Before it moved to Thames Street, CODAC III ran just as a counseling center.
When it first started dispensing methadone in 1988, neighbors sued to block the clinic’s activities, worried about an influx of heroin addicts into Newport. The suit eventually died.
“I don’t know what image people have of a clinic that dispenses methadone,” Hurley said. “I think there is a stereotype. But the people who come
here do what they have to do and leave and get on with their lives. They’re local people from the Newport community.”
Because of CODAC, two clients said they are getting reacquainted with normalcy. Both developed addictions to painkillers and spent their lives
trying to find doctors to provide medications such as Percocet, Fentanyl, Vicodin and Dilaudid.
Both asked that their full identities not be used. “You’d spend every waking moment wondering how you would get your next prescription refill,” said Pamela, 40.
“That became the most important thing in your life, getting your pills.”
Pamela came to CODAC in 2007 after battling painkiller addiction for nearly a decade. It started with back pain in the late 1990s, at a time when she worked as a pharmaceutical researcher.
A doctor prescribed a painkiller, Vicodin, and soon Pamela’s need for the drugs outweighed her back problems. “You felt so good taking them,” she said.
“And I knew exactly what to get because I worked in the industry. You always wanted to feel that good. And after a while you would do anything to avoid withdrawal.”
She said she would go doctor shopping, looking for physicians willing to write painkiller prescriptions. She visited emergency rooms across the state, describing fierce and unrelenting back pain.
“It wasn’t that bad, but after a while I sort of believed what I was telling the doctors,” Pamela said. “In my head, I felt that way, that I was in such terrible pain.
It became part of my identity. But I could get a prescription and go run seven miles. But I had no life. I couldn’t form relationships with men. I had friendships, but no deep relationships.”
Steve, 50, once worked as a plumber and pipe fitter. Today he lives on $1,100 a month in disability payments.  A decade ago, he underwent abdominal surgeries,
which he said were botched. He said he still needs more surgery. The earlier ones led to severe pain, painkillers and eventual dependency.  “The big three for me were
Dilaudid, Percocet and Fentanyl,” Steve said. “But after a while, they lose their effect. You need more just to keep going.” Steve eventually graduated to heroin — snorting it and eventually shooting it.
“My whole life was a total mess,” he said. “I was desperate to avoid withdrawal.”
He began a methadone maintenance program in 2004, three years ahead of Pamela. Initially, they each visited the center daily for methadone.
Now they get take-home doses and are required to visit less often, though they both take part in counseling sessions.
“And we have to provide regular urine samples,” Pamela said. “There are people who slip up and have to start again. But they are here to support you.”
Addiction, Hurley said, is misunderstood: “It’s a medical illness in the brain. It’s not just a matter of will power. That would be easier.
It’s a matter of changing behavior by making the right decision over and over again.” 
Methadone is a way to wean people off opiates. Steve and Pamela said no one wants to experience the cold-turkey shutdown, the withdrawal that accompanies it.
“Think of the worst flu you can imagine,” Pamela said. “You’re so sick, vomiting, diarrhea, chills, sweats. You feel like you can’t lift yourself out of bed.”
Steve added, “You can practically feel your hair and fingertips hurting.”
Pamela hit bottom in 2007 when a pharmacy computer flagged her name. Two doctors had prescribed painkillers for her at the same time, and that set off alarms.
“You’d be surprised how much information is on computers,” she said. “They know every prescription you’ve had filled, every emergency-room visit you make.”
Neither client knew much about CODAC before walking through the doorway at Thames and West Marlborough streets. Pamela said the agency’s support,
coupled with family support, has restored her life. “My family was very supportive,” she said. “For a while, my job was just to get well.”
Today Pamela works and keeps herself fit with running, yoga and Pilates.
Steve — a father and grandfather — said he misses working and hopes his abdominal problems will be resolved.
“I’ve gone from making $1,200 a week at times to making $1,100 a month,” he said. 
He receives Medicaid and pays about $20 a week for treatment, through a sliding scale. Pamela’s health insurance covers her treatment.
“I hate to think of where I’d be without this place,” she said. “I didn’t even know it existed before 2007. I wish I had come in sooner.”  PAMELA (a client of CODAC II, whose last name was not given.)
The Newport Daily News is published daily, except Sundays and certain holidays, by the Edward A. Sherman Publishing Company. 101 Malbone Road, Newport RI 02840
Telephone: (401) 849-3300 | Fax: (401) 849-3306 for the newsroom, (401) 849-3335 for other departments
Copyright ©2011



CODAC celebrates 40 years, thousands of success stories - By Meg Fraser


Forty years ago, former Mayor Jim Taft was worried about the emerging drug problem in the City of Cranston. He could identify very few supports in the community for

individuals struggling with substance abuse, and saw a need.  Today, that idea has grown into CODAC Behavioral Healthcare, which has five branches around the state

and treats more than 1,200 Rhode Islanders each year. To date, it is estimated that CODAC has influenced 60,000 people. 


“If he didn’t have this vision in 1970, what would substance abuse treatment and behavioral health services be like?” asked Michael Rizzi, president and CEO of CODAC.

“The celebration was, in a way, bittersweet.”  Mayor Taft passed away in September of this year, but his contributions to behavioral and mental health care in the Ocean State are not forgotten.

His vision and commitment to social services was recognized last Wednesday as CODAC celebrated its 40th anniversary with an event at the Crowne Plaza in Warwick.


Also recognized last week were longtime CODAC supporters and board members Sandra DelSesto and the Regine family of Cranston.


Rizzi joined the CODAC team in 1973. At the time, Craig Stenning was the executive director, a post he served in for 28 years. Stenning has since moved on from the organization,

and currently serves as the director of the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals.   “We would not be standing here

today if it was not for Jim Taft…This anniversary is really his celebration. Of all of his achievements as mayor, he always considered CODAC as one of his most important accomplishments,” Stenning said.


The major challenge under Stenning’s leadership was a gap in treatment. Residential treatment facilities were the focus, but outpatient options were scarce. 

CODAC stepped in and began expanding from an umbrella organization that connected drug and alcohol users to the appropriate resources, into a treatment option.

CODAC offered one of the state’s first outpatient treatment programs.  “CODAC saw itself as an opportunity to provide something that didn’t exist,” Rizzi said.


In the early 1970s, CODAC worked closely with the State of Rhode Island and the former Cranston General Hospital to administer methadone treatment and outpatient

detox for opioid addiction.  By 1975, the state wanted out, and CODAC took over their Providence-based methadone program. Two years later, the City of Newport invited

CODAC in to provide a similar outpatient service in that community. Over the next two decades, CODAC would open up additional centers in East Providence (1978) and Wakefield (1998).


Stenning thanked the thousands of individuals who began their recovery journey at these CODAC centers statewide.  “Many of you have heard me say what a wonderful field this is to work in –

because individuals allow us to join them in this path of recovery,” he said. “They do the really hard work and we provide the tools and improved skills to reach their goals. We now know that

treatment is the beginning of the journey – not the end.”


CODAC has developed student assistance and tobacco cessation programs around the state. They also have a contract with the Department of Corrections and work with released inmates. 

Between its five centers, CODAC addresses opioid and narcotic addiction, as well as alcohol abuse. Bridging the gap between these types of addiction was something the agency paved the way on. 


“The alcohol people didn’t want to deal with the drug people,” Rizzi said.  Offering resources and treatment under one roof allows professionals to work more effectively together, though.


Equally challenging was bringing mental health services into the mix.  “In those days,” Rizzi recalled of the 1970s, “there was a wide chasm between the mental health side and the substance abuse side.” 

Often times, there are “co-occurring” disorders that come with addiction. Someone with an addiction to prescription pain pills could also have a mental condition like depression, anxiety or character disorders.

Those disorders can, in turn, influence substance abuse.


Today, CODAC professionals treat these co-occurring disorders simultaneously. Patients can access a variety of services easily and begin to heal right away.  “You build, little by little,” Rizzi said.

“I think we’re at a place right now where you’re finding more and more mental health centers also having a substance abuse unit.”


CODAC has a staff of 95 that includes physicians, nurses and counselors that specialize in marriage, family or rehabilitation therapies. The 36 employees who have been with the

agency for more than five years have a combined service of 420 years in the behavioral healthcare field.  “We have been blessed to have so many dedicated, committed, compassionate,

skillful practitioners work for CODAC,” Rizzi said.  Having doctors and nurses close by is crucial. Despite a perception that most drug users have the HIV or AIDS virus, Rizzi says that accounts for

less than 3 percent of CODAC patients. An astonishing 85 percent, however, suffer from Hepatitis C.  These individuals continue to be discriminated against, even after years of sobriety.

For example, Rizzi has seen many addicts come through treatment successfully but remain at the bottom of donor lists for a new liver because they pose a greater risk of using again.


Outside of the CODAC headquarters on Park Avenue, there is no sign to advertise the business going on inside. Rizzi said that was done as a deliberate choice to see if individuals feel more comfortable

turning to CODAC for help when passersby don’t know what services are provided there.  “There is a whole issue of stigma and marginalization that comes with the issues that we’re dealing with here.

We know perception, for many folks, is important,” Rizzi said.


In recent years, the individuals seeking treatment or counseling at CODAC have been younger.  “There’s a tendency now to see a younger group of opioid users,” Rizzi said. 

Some of that, he said, can be attributed to the availability of drugs, the prevalence of prescription drug abuse as a gateway and the mainstream media.  “There is this incredible exposure to toxic

information with not much rebuttal,” Rizzi said, using beer commercials during an afternoon football game as an example. He believes these messages of drinking and drug use as a means to have

fun feed into a child’s need for instant gratification.  “There’s this increasing dependence on something external in order to provide excitement,” he said. “Everything is focused on what’s going to make you feel good.”


The recession doesn’t help either.  “We’re also seeing those people who found themselves in a tough economic situation and, as a result, have let their drinking or drug use get out of hand.”


As with any social service agency, CODAC has been forced to do more with less. They are paid through insurance and by state contracts, but budgets are tight and CODAC has seen funding reduced by 20 percent. 

Rizzi says the path to recovery is a cost-saving measure in the long run.  Persistent drug use often leads to crime, intervention by DCYF when children are involved, imprisonment and hefty medical bills.

Rizzi estimates that for every $1 spent on treatment or recovery efforts, the state avoids $7 in related costs.  “As soon as the door is shut on these folks, the costs go up exponentially.

There’s a little bit of short sightedness that goes on here.”


Going forward, all CODAC can do is coordinate care and continue to deliver services in the most effective and cost-efficient way possible.  “It was everybody’s expectation that if we did our jobs really well,

our jobs would go away. That hasn’t happened,” Rizzi said. “I think the future of CODAC lies in looking at how we can continually improve services.”

For more information on CODAC services, call 461-5056.