Kristin Young Promoted to Clinical Director

Herren Project announced today that it had promoted Kristin Young as Clinical Director to take a full-time leadership role within the organization, effective August 1st. Ms. Young has served the organization as part-time Director of Clinical Services for the past six years while maintaining a private practice on Cape Cod. The move comes as part of a strategic transition designed to position the organization toward transformational growth to meet the unprecedented need for addiction and recovery services.

Ms. Young has been a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) in Massachusetts since 2009, with a private practice on Cape Cod since 2014. She holds a Master’s Degree in Clinical Social Work from Boston University School of Social Work and a Bachelor’s in Neuroscience from Smith College. She has worked in the mental health and addictive disorders field for nearly 20 years. Kristin has worked with individuals with chronic and severe mental health issues and co-occurring disorders and has served in mental health centers and recovery residences. She specializes in addiction, recovery, trauma, and chronic mental health issues. In addition to her professional experience, Kristin brings “lived experience” from having supported loved ones through addiction and recovery.

Executive Director Bonnie Sawyer commented: “If we are to maximize our impact as an organization, we will need the skills, leadership, and clinical guidance that can serve more people in need. Kristin has worked with us to be who we are today, helped set our approach, and inspired us to implement changes for diversity, equity, and inclusion. We have every confidence in her. The board and I agree that this was the right move to make. We are delighted Kristin will help lead the transformation.”

Ms. Young, who identifies as she/her, has been instrumental in setting the direction and approach of Herren Project’s clinical services to include services for individuals and families of those struggling with substance use disorder. Those services include one-on-one consultations, treatment referrals, recovery scholarships, online family support groups, and educational workshops. She has also helped design program content for Herren Project Clubs to build an evidence basis of social and emotional learning tools for youth. Going forward, she will help develop the key strategies as the organization implements its strategic plan over the next three to five years.

Ms. Young is also credited with bringing diversity issues to the forefront of the organization. She spearheaded an informal task force to listen to outside voices, read literature and learn about privilege and implicit bias. The task force she initiated evolved into a formal staff committee that worked throughout the year with the guidance of consultants who helped train staff and formulate a set of DEI goals and strategic priorities for the organization.

Staff sat with Kristin to interview her on her vision going forward:

Q: What are the key goals and strategies Herren Project will employ for clinical services?

A: We want to double the number of people we serve. We want to focus on where we can be most effective: recovery support after treatment. We want to break barriers, so more people receive the help they need.

Q: What barriers exist in addiction services?

A: Trust, language, cultural bias, and financial costs can set up unintended barriers to segments of people that may need services. Addiction can affect anyone, but the solution isn’t uniform for all. To serve all people affected by substance use disorder, we must understand their specific issues and barriers to wellness with an eye toward improvement.

Herren Project provides services typically available in the marketplace at a significant fee and only to those in a position to afford them. Free services could substantially remove a financial barrier to benefit underserved communities. I’m also excited that we’ve been able to launch a new online support group in Spanish, and we plan to translate much of our literature. It’s a start.

Q: Why do you think diversity is important for the organization?

A: National events have been traumatic to the BIPOC community, which identifies with the experience of systemic racism. Exacerbating this factor is disparate access to health services caused by poverty and the high cost of quality addiction treatment and aftercare. CDC data show higher rates of overdoses among black men that are disproportionate to their representation, highlighting their unique vulnerabilities and the failure of health care measures to reach them effectively. For LGBTQIA+ communities, discrimination and bullying create special vulnerability to suicide and higher rates of substance use.

Stigma and discrimination, bullying, violence, and intolerance are all risk factors for substance use disorder, so we stand for radical acceptance, tolerance, and understanding. We fight stigma as we understand the stigma of addiction and stand against discrimination of all kinds. Creating an environment where all people can thrive means supporting our diverse communities and ensuring they have access to needed services.

We believe it is important to model the change we hope to see in the world — one mind at a time. That is why we have committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion as a core mission-centric principle and a course of change that begins internally.

Q: What compelled you to initiate diversity measures within the organization?

A: I looked at the world outside. After a period of lockdowns from a global pandemic, I saw the ongoing effects of social isolation, a crisis in mental health, and almost unimaginable overdose deaths; our society stood divided, and violence in the streets. I felt compelled to do something.

Change starts from within, so if you want to bring change to the world, there is no better place to start than by looking in the mirror. I am proud to report that each of us on staff has undergone this process of reflection so that we as an organization can embrace change and be a force for the change we want to see in the world.

Q: What changes do you see as you embark on the new strategic plan?

A: We will pivot from treatment navigation services to focus more on extended recovery. This is where there is a gap in services and where we can be most effective, and we are not afraid to pivot after a period of self-reflection. We must work smart to leverage limited resources by focusing on our core strengths and doing what others do not. Research shows that if you can make it past 30 days to 90, you are more likely to stay in long-term recovery. There are not a lot of affordable options in aftercare. We will focus on this critical time.

Q: What impact do you hope to make as Clinical Director?

A: I want to influence an organization committed to changing the world for the better, one person at a time. I have had that opportunity at Herren Project for the past eight years and look forward to continuing.