What Prevention Means To Me

by: Dr. Daniel Smith


Back in April, in preparation for this week's National Prevention Week from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), I was honored to participate in the webinarBecoming Prevention Champions in Your Workplaces and Communities” where I shared Mary’s Center’s expertise, and our role as a “prevention champion” working with the opioid community.

As I expressed during the webinar, Mary’s Center is a truly special place. While we follow the same medical protocol as health centers around the country, what makes Mary’s Center exceptional is the way that we prioritize radical respect and access to care. Our addiction services are fully integrated into our social change model, which means that we work with our participants to make sure their lives allow them to be successful in overcoming addiction. Do they have housing? Are they employed or able to financially support themselves? Do they have transportation to get to our clinics to receive treatment? We know that if we are able to meet every participant’s needs, the likelihood that they will remain in treatment recovery increases exponentially.

Keeping patients in treatment is our number one goal as it means they are far less likely to overdose. Currently, Mary’s Center has more than 200 active participants who are seeing us for addiction services, the majority of which have been with us for over a year. We keep our retention rates high by having two priorities:

  • First, we treat our participants with radical respect by training staff to be friendly and culturally competent. The average patient who sees us for substance abuse disorders is an older, African American man who often does not live near our health centers and has historically been neglected by the medical community. Regardless of who comes through our doors, we always want to make sure our staff knows how to meet their needs, respectfully and thoughtfully. That means going beyond medical help and tackling the different challenges they face on a daily basis.
  • Second,flexibility is key. The patients who seek us out and ask for help are the ones that we have the greatest chance of serving, therefore we try to see them even if they come late or miss an appointment. We know these participants are working hard to overcome addiction, so we want to meet them where they are at. This fits with the guiding principle of Mary’s Center—we want to serve the most vulnerable members of our community. Oftentimes, the most vulnerable community members have the toughest time making their appointments. Because of this, we try to fit the participants’ schedules, rather than our own, we see walk-ins, we work with patients who are challenging, and we provide transportation.

Above all, I believe that Mary’s Center truly understands that “care” is a major component of healthcare. This is something that I emphasized in SAMHSA’s webinar, and something that I also emphasize every day when I come to work. When we touch the life of one individual, we know that we are touching the lives of an entire family, and an entire community.

As we celebrate National Prevention Week, I want to invite you to reflect on what recovery, in any aspect of your life, means to you, and to take advantage of any available resource that helps you overcome difficulties. Personally, I am thankful for the opportunity to work for an organization that is constantly making sure that everyone who needs help is able to receive it.



Dr. Smith headshot

Dr. Daniel Smith is the Addiction Services Director at Mary's Center where he practices Family Medicine at the Ontario Road locaiton. He attended the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and completed his residency at Swedish First Hill Family Medicine at the Downtown Public Health Center in Seattle, WA. Dr. Smith has worked and volunteered in Peru, Guatemala, Haiti and Malawi. He has a particular interest in the care of new mothers and their babies, geriatric patients, and patients recovering from addiction. Dr. Smith says: “I chose to do my residency at a community health center and now work at Mary’s Center because I wholeheartedly believe access to high-quality health care is something that all people are entitled to regardless of their native language, immigration status, skin color, or ability to pay. We are all neighbors and should work together to promote the health of our communities!”


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