Skip to content

Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds: LI Human Services Champion

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

On the side, Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds is a marathon runner, a triathlete, and a thoughtful writer and speaker committed to helping people achieve their full potential. Above all, he is a committed family man. While it’s hard to fathom how he finds time for it all, the dedication, strength and heart that those aspects of his life require shine through clearly to those who know him best through his profession. Jeff is a passionate, accomplished, deeply knowledgeable Human Services Executive. In this, he is as interested in aligning the systems of “doing good” to be more effective as he is in making sure that he stays in direct contact with the diverse populations his agency, the Family and Children’s Association, serves.  There’s a lot that goes on in between. We sat down with him recently to talk about it…

A Lifetime of Service

Dr. Reynolds began his career while still an undergraduate, working on the VIBS hotline. This Victims Information Bureau of Suffolk was established in 1976 as a pioneer in the domestic violence and rape crisis movements.

“It was an eye opening experience,” says Jeff, “Sometimes we were able to help. Sometimes we lost clients because they were killed by their abusers.”

In 1989, he was recruited by the LI Association for AIDS Care, where he stayed until 2008. This second direct experience of mortality was coupled with hard lessons in social stigma and politics.

“I was a 20 year old kid and my eyes were peeled wide open. People were dying and no one was doing anything about it. It took 60,000 AIDS deaths before Ronald Reagan admitted we had a problem.”

He goes on to explain how, despite the unspeakable human tragedy, people cast the issue aside or used it as an excuse to demonize both gays and drug addicts. The turning point didn’t come until a white Indiana teenager who contracted the disease through a tainted hemophilia treatment finally got people’s constructive attention. Not that Ryan White was being treated with dignity, himself. The story hit the national stage in 1985 when the middle school child was expelled from school for having AIDS and his parents decided to take action.

According to Wikipedia, White’s case, coupled with a spotlight on celebrities who were either dying or felt moved to use their public platform to advocate for the cause finally made a difference. Unfortunately, by then, nearly 90% of hemophiliacs treated with blood-clotting factors had also become infected with HIV. This, of course, represented a tiny fraction of those who suffered from the epidemic.

Despite the disheartening frustration of this delayed response, Jeff was informed and inspired when he  got to witness the significant progress that resulted from this turn of events.  In 1990, Congress enacted the Ryan White CARE Act. It remains the nation’s largest federally funded program in the US for people living with HIV/AIDS. As a “payer of last resort”, those programs provide funding for HIV survivors and their families when no other resources are available.

Building on his experience, in 1997 Jeff also co-founded and served as the COO of an organization called BiasHELP of Long Island.  This organization is dedicated to assisting victims of hate crimes and their families. It continues to operate as a division of LINCS, The Long Island Network of Community Services, Inc.

Another piece of Jeff’s foundational experience was work as a case manager with heroin users in North Bellport.  “It was quite an experience,” Jeff recalls, “but nothing like we’re seeing now. You have to understand, a heavy user back then was a middle-aged adult living on the fringes of society who shot up twice a day. Now we’re regularly seeing middle class kids who do it 15-20 times a day.”

“It was quite an experience,” Jeff recalls, “but nothing like we’re seeing now. You have to understand, a heavy user back then was a middle-aged adult living on the fringes of society who shot up twice a day. Now we’re regularly seeing middle class kids who do it 15-20 times a day.”

This deep “real-world” experience is backed by substantial academic endeavors. Dr. Reynolds holds a Bachelor’s degree in psychology that he earned from Dowling College in 1988. He received his Masters is in Public Administration (MPA) with a specialization in health administration from Long Island University in 1997. In 2007, he earned a doctorate from Stony Brook University’s School of Social Welfare. His dissertation was on “Using the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change to Explore Substance Use Patterns and HIV Risk Behaviors in a Suburban Sample.” To this day, he is an Assistant Clinical Professor at Stony Brook. Dr. Reynolds is also a Certified Employee Assistance Professional (CEAP) and a U.S. Department of Transportation-qualified Substance Abuse Professional (SAP).

LICADD Finds a Champion

In 2009, two years after completing his doctorate, Jeff started work with LI Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. Despite his serious educational endeavors and his long executive experience, he maintains that his wisdom regarding the issues at LICADD came not from a management perspective, but from a human services one.

He had been noticed and approached by Adelphi University, which was working with LICADD to figure out how to resurrect and beathe new life into the 55 year old organization. It was struggling financially and lacked name recognition. Jeff took the request as a calling. What tugged at his heart most was that LICADD was and still is the only organization on Long Island focused on both drug abuse prevention and professionally facilitated interventions.

The work was also deeply personal, “I had lost my mom to chronic alcoholism seven or eight years before. We did everything we could to help her. Maybe we could have done something more, maybe not, but I wish I had known about LICADD”

In that light, a massive pay cut coupled with a major commute time increase didn’t seem like too much of a sacrifice. Fortunately for Long Island, Jeff proved to be the force for growth that organization needed. Thank heavens, because by that time opioid deaths on Long Island had begun to rise quickly. According to the Nassau County website, in 2004, they experienced 52 opioid deaths. By 2008, that number had risen to 139. Parts of Long Island were beginning to realize it had a serious problem.

“The parallels between the AIDS crisis and what we’ve seen with Heroin are striking. For years, LI kept its head in the sands of denial and stigma and passively refused to do anything about it. Then, one day, we woke up to find that the problem had developed into a crisis. All along, my experience had me thinking: Haven’t we learned anything?!?”

While it’s frustrating to feel like no one cares until it’s an issue hurting middle class white kids, Jeff also sees the tipping point factor those families represent, “They have tremendous influence, but they didn’t see it as their problem. As it became their problem, they feared the stigma. Finally, too many soccer moms who had the time, resources and social standing were living with horrible family secrets. They started to decide that enough was enough. They didn’t care about stigma anymore. They cared about saving their kids and their neighbors’ kids.”   

“It has been amazing to watch the transition.”

In 2010, the Suffolk County Heroin/Opiate Epidemic Advisory Panel was formed, which Jeff chaired.  . That same year, Nassau County also launched the Nassau County Heroin Prevention Task Force, on which he serves the Executive Committee. . In 2012 Suffolk County created a Sober Home Oversight Board, on which Jeff serves as the co-chair  . This group is the first of its kind in New York State. It recognizes that those leaving substance abuse treatment too often wind up in unregulated, unsafe and overcrowded rental properties that are scattered across the county. Its objective is to increase the availability of safe, stable, sober housing for those in recovery, giving them a greater chance of establishing a better life.

In the summer of 2016, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the launch of a statewide Heroin Task Force.  Said Cuomo, “The group, comprised of healthcare providers, policy advocates, educators, parents and New Yorkers in recovery, will build on the state’s previous efforts and use their expertise and first-hand experience to develop a comprehensive action plan to combat the state’s opioid epidemic.” 

The best part, to Jeff’s eye, is not what’s happening up top, but what he’s seeing on the ground. Law enforcement officials are finally coming around to admit we can’t arrest ourselves out of this problem.

The best part, to Jeff’s eye, is not what’s happening up top, but what he’s seeing on the ground. Law enforcement officials are finally coming around to admit we can’t arrest ourselves out of this problem.

“It shows we are successfully reframing the issue and thinking more deeply about drug policy,” says Jeff, “It’s about time.”

Now, Jeff asserts, we have to address root causes and provide adequate services. This includes understanding that the Human Services sector, as a whole, is struggling.

A Broader View: The Family and Children's Association

In 2014, one of Long Island’s largest human service organizations, Family & Children’s Association, succeeded at recruiting Jeff to serve their broader cause. It was a similar situation to when he was approached to lead LICADD – the 130-year old agency was in need of strong, dynamic leadership. This time, however, the decision was much more difficult. The first time they approached Jeff, he was flattered, but felt he still had work to do at LICADD.

“We were making great headway at LICADD. I had an excellent board behind me, with great people who knew what their role was. They empowered us to do our job and offered the support we required. The issue we were facing was huge and we were making a significant, measurable impact. We were saving lives.”

A year passed and the Family & Children’s Association asked him again. It was the potential to exponentially increase his impact that convinced him to make the leap. Plus, by that time there was a succession plan in place at LICADD, with people qualified to take the lead.

What's the Problem?

If you ask Jeff what he thinks the three biggest issues are facing LI from the human services perspective, he will tell you that it’s the drug crisis, intractable poverty and unemployment. He’ll also tell you that he’s not satisfied with these answers.

He wants people to understand: “When we look at things this way, we are swatting at symptoms without getting to the systemic issues.”

“I’m not a fan of multigenerational poverty,” says Jeff, “I’m glad we’re not abandoning these people, but as long as they’re not getting out of that, I don’t see that as a success.”

He does see some external hope, particularly through the community revitalization efforts that are going on in places like Patchogue, Farmingdale, and Wyandanch. In Hempstead, though? Conditions are terrible. He sees some who are making meaningful advances there, but other sectors seem trapped. This brings him to what he sees as three core structural issues:

SEGREGATION. Communities of poverty are physically and socially positioned to stay there.

THE SUBURBAN VENEER OF LONG ISLAND belies serious problems of homelessness, heroin and HIV – “People don’t see the suffering,” says Jeff, “You’ve got hundreds of individuals and families who have money and influence…It all goes to the city where they work because they can see the very visible challenges there. They don’t have the first idea about the needs on Long Island. We need to change that.

MENTAL HEALTH TO CRIMINAL JUSTICE PIPELINE. Dr. Reynolds explains, “A large part of our opioid epidemic has to do with people who lack adequate care and are dealing with mental health issues by self-medicating. Once they get trapped in that, then their need for services multiplies exponentially. The police are working overtime in more dangerous conditions. Prisons become asylums. We are not helping ourselves by failing to fund efforts to address the root causes.”

This last point is a big one. While it’s often a difficult challenge to muster political will for long-term prevention strategies, Jeff maintains that it is in our best interest to invest in resources to keep people out of trouble in the first place, that reduce recidivism when they do slip through the cracks, and that help our officers become better equipped to navigate mental health situations. He finds some of the Medicaid changes have been helpful, and it’s been good to see that some officers are beginning to receive training in crisis management, but more is needed.

The closing of Mental Health Clinics because they don’t work financially is particularly frustrating.

“Facilities that effectively serve the mentally ill the right way are not going to make a direct profit,” Jeff insists, “Heck, they’re never going to break even. We have to understand this, and recognize that it’s still a really important, valuable investment for our communities.”

The discussion turns to culture: “We need to change the way we treat people who are struggling.”

As we hear Jeff talk, a fundamental challenge becomes clear: When a person gets stuck in a bad spiral and dares to seek help, society then comes down on them with a big rubber stamp that says “Unemployable,” “Unrentable,” “Untouchable.”

It’s hard enough to find renters and employers who are willing to take a chance on people when the economy is good. When it’s bad, it can become impossible to place them. When people are not provided paths back into society as productive employees, they tend to backslide.

This feeds gangs. This feeds recidivism. This feeds depression and despair.

This increases the burden on an already struggling human services sector.

“People don’t see the suffering,” says Jeff, “You’ve got hundreds of individuals and families who have money and influence…It all goes to the city where they work because they can see the very visible challenges there. They don’t have the first idea about the needs on Long Island. We need to change that.

A Sector in Crisis

When Dr. Reynolds looks around, he sees that the Humans Services sector is in trouble. There are major funding gaps that are becoming insurmountable as needs and costs continue to increase. Reynolds predicts that this stress will result in a dramatic downsizing of the number of organizations serving Long Island over the next five years, especially among the small ones that are most intimately connected to their community.

Another thing Jeff points out is that, as wonderful as his organization is, and as strongly he stands behind his people and their commitment to being directly engaged with their populations, these small organizations that are on the brink of closure play an important role. There is no replacing the human beings who are committed to communities that they know inside and out.

“That’s what we lose. It’s not a simple duplication of services or inferior services that are being lost. Sometimes we’re losing people who make unique and really important contributions to their community.”

It’s not just the stalwart baby boomers who run small organizations, some of whom have served for decades as lifelines in their community. There are dwindling numbers of younger people to serve, whether because they left as part of Long Island’s “Brain Drain” or because they aren’t seeing this kind of work as a viable career path.

The LICADD Merger

Anyone deeply involved in fund raising on Long Island has heard, at one time or another, some prominent donor lament at the sheer number of organizations asking for assistance. They will then hear them suggest that these groups are too often redundant and that they should pool their resources so that good work gets done more efficiently. Anyone deeply involved with the management of a nonprofit organization will suggest that’s easier said than done.

Jeff will strongly agree, “Some days it seems like every organization with a budget of less than $5million is looking to merge with someone else. Some of these organizations are really wonderful. Others are not so great, and perhaps have outlived their usefulness. The big problem, though, is that most of these conversations are not occurring in a strategic and thoughtful way. Too many are moves of desperation and happen out of default.”

Jeff’s been a part of several merger conversations throughout his career and LICADD recently became an affiliate of FCA’s in order to consolidate back office operations. These are the factors that he feels made the merger successful:

EXISTING CLOSE RELATIONSHIP. “I know LICADD inside and out, and they knew me. There were shared board members. It wasn’t a hostile takeover or a move of desperation. There was trust and understanding, and mutual respect.

CLEAR ABILITY TO STRENGTHEN SERVICES. Each organization had something clear to offer. LICADD had expertise in intervention, outreach and education. Both organizations knew how to get folks into treatment, and what was needed after. Toward that end, FCA could provide vocational training, housing placement and recovery support.

CLEAR RELIEF OF BURDEN THROUGH THE MERGER OF BACK OFFICE FUNCTIONS. FCA could absorb a management/administrative burden that meant LICADD could better focus on its mission

Even though it was clearly a win-win proposition, Jeff stresses that it still took a full year to put pen to paper and complete the deal. There were many details that needed to be worked out. This is not a simple process. It was a key priority to make sure that the hard-won brand, and that the relationships LICADD had fostered with the community, donors and other organizations would be preserved. LICADD trusted FCA to honor that. Still, it took lot of hard work to impart that trust to others, who feared that the organization would simply be absorbed. 

That’s with a unique situation where the human relationships were already well established and highly functional. The FCA is talking with other organizations in hopes of helping where it can. However, even with those that aren’t coming from positions of dire straits, the conversations are much, much harder.

It's Not Just the Small Organizations

“The Health & Human Services grid is being worn down dangerously,” warns Jeff, “It’s not like a bridge where there will be this big collapse with amazing video footage…but our failure to adequately support this sector leads to huge problems.”

While the Family & Children’s Association is well-established, with a large budget and excellent management, it’s still not easy to secure necessary funding to keep established programs running, much less to expand and innovate to better meet the enormous need on Long Island.

At the same time, there is increasing regulation of nonprofits. Some of that is very positive. Some of it is really hard. Some of the positive stuff, frankly, is really hard. One challenge, which nonprofits share with other businesses, is the increase in the minimum wage.

“We love it,” says Jeff, “People need it. But resources shrink and needs rise, we can’t afford it on our own and government needs to help.”

It’s a similar challenge with overtime laws.

“I am a major proponent of work-life balance,” explains Jeff, “At the same time, I ply a passion-driven trade. Sometimes being mission driven requires extra hours. Now, I have to artificially cap that.”

Those requirements pull on one end. The stress on the other is a shrinking workforce that can’t afford these jobs even with those increases.

“The Long Island economy increasingly offers less and less opportunity for the talented people needed to do Human Services work,” explains Jeff, “People are less likely to major in Social Work. They are financially unable to take the jobs that we can offer. They just can’t afford to do that kind of work here. They either enter the private sector, or they leave Long Island.

“The Health & Human Services grid is being worn down dangerously,” warns Jeff, “It’s not like a bridge where there will be this big collapse with amazing video footage…but our failure to adequately support this sector leads to huge problems.”

Overhead Matters

“We are still learning how to help people,” reflects Jeff, “That’s hard enough all by itself, but the problems are multiplying in size and complexity. Support was always insufficient. Now it’s dwindling. We have to step up in a big way to address the need.”

“We have to stop undervaluing what we do.”

The nonprofit sector, as a whole, has long suffered from a mentality that rewarded their poverty. For many years, people were encouraged to evaluate charities based on the percentage of funds that went toward overhead, claiming that organizations who spent more than 20% on fundraising and administration were mismanaging donated funds. The trouble with this recommendation is quickly seen with small organizations who may have their programs fueled by volunteers and whose primary costs are those incurred for central administration and to maintain legal compliance as a non-profit organization. Once they reach a certain budget size, this includes annual IRS audits. For large organizations, this is also a difficult issue.

Jeff will note that nonprofits operate in a strange space. “No other sector is encouraged to take pride in failing to invest in its businesses. Nor do they brag about how little they pay their people.”

In a 2013 TED Talk, activist and fundraiser Dan Pallotta took serious issue with what he called the “Overhead Myth,” arguing that it reflected misplaced morals and posed serious impediments to effecting positive change. These observations were heeded by organizations such as the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, GuideStar and Charity Navigator, who came together to highlight the problems of this approach with a project called the Overhead Myth. While watchdogs such as Charity Watch defend the usefulness of the ratios they use to evaluate charities, they also clarify that overly simplistic ratios are misleading and imply that some organizations may be better than others at categorizing their use of funds. 

The evolution of this debate is still filtering down. Donors continue to make well-intended but negatively consequential efforts to ensure that funding is spent wisely.

“They will give us money to run a program,” says Jeff, “but refuse to allow any of that funding to pay for administration or overhead. When this happens, by definition, our programs run at a loss.”

Another issue is when State-run programs expect the same value from grants, despite increasing expenses. “30 years later, we are being paid the exact same amount to run a program, but our clients are much sicker. Their problems are much bigger. The baseline costs are much higher.”

“The government hasn’t fully gotten it,” says Jeff. What’s more, sometimes, the State itself is a cost driver, “We have a lot of unfunded mandates that – whether they are good regulations or not — we are legally obligated to pay for them. These aren’t our rules.”

The bottom line is that running a legal, effective organization requires overhead and administration. Up to date Information Technology is a modern necessity. Talent is expensive. Understanding and addressing complex problems requires research and professional development.

What’s more, the innovation required to get to the next level requires room to take risks. Knowing how effective programs really are requires resources to conduct meaningful evaluations. Long term success requires resources with which to plan

“I want to give you impacts. This is expensive to meaningfully conceive. Then we have to do the measurements and analysis.”

“Who wants to pay to measure the outcomes? To evaluate their validity?“

While the needed sea change hasn’t come yet, fortunately, like the Better Business Bureau, there are some donors who now understand this. A few go out of their way to fund things like back office functions that empower the folks on the ground to do their jobs better. Some folks in the government are becoming more enlightened as well. Among recent grants to the Family & Children’s Association was $250,000 from SAMHSA for an outcomes-based project focused on minority women in Hempstead.

The innovation required to get to the next level requires room to take risks. Knowing how effective programs really are requires resources to conduct meaningful evaluations. Long term success requires resources with which to plan.

Measurements of Success

While demands to strictly control overhead ratios have begun a slow decline, demand for measurable results has risen sharply. Much of the evaluation push comes from donors who want to make sure their gifts are put to good use. Medicaid reform, Jeff notes, is another driver.

On one hand, increased focus on outcomes is a source of hope and validation. Jeff thinks it’s nice to see evidence of success and appreciates being pushed to achieve. “We are moving away from units of service provided to thinking hard about what solid outcomes really look like.”

On the other hand, it’s not an easy thing to do, especially when an organization is already challenged to meet growing needs with sometimes unreasonably limited funding. In his classic style, though, Jeff has taken that challenge as an opportunity.

“This has been a conversation. At first glance, such demands can seem unfair. First, it’s not easy…just because someone relapses, or fails to thrive, or goes back into an abusive situation doesn’t mean we’re not doing our part. Second, some of the most effective impacts are not readily measurable. It’s been a great dialogue.”

“For example, we were granted funding for transitional housing for 18-25 year olds in Freeport. The housing is provided on a temporary basis for a period of a year to 18 months. Once everyone was focused on impacts, we were able to turn around and ask those funders, ‘Then what? How can we use this time to make sure people have opportunities to build meaningful skills? A positive work ethic?’”

“It’s still hard to measure. There are many intervening variables and a big challenge remains that, while funders want these outcomes measured, few are willing to fund them. Most of that money comes from the private sector. There are a few highly enlightened donors. Amy Hagedorn, who recently passed away, was one. Marion Conway of the New York Community Bank Foundation is another and the Sandy River Foundation has been supporting our IT capacity to analyze programs.”

A small number of enlightened donors is hopeful, but insufficient. He hopes more will join them. He is making it a point to make sure more join them.

“This has been a conversation. At first glance, such demands can seem unfair. First, it’s not easy…just because someone relapses, or fails to thrive, or goes back into an abusive situation doesn’t mean we’re not doing our part. Second, some of the most effective impacts are not readily measurable. It’s been a great dialogue.”

Endurance Factors

Just discussing these challenges is depressing and enough to give one a headache. Still, Jeff is smiling and radiates a positivity that is heartening. “How do you keep that up?” we ask.

“We make a point to keep our focus on Community; on acting with love, respect and humility. You have to really care to do this work.”

He says it’s the individual stories that keep him grounded and moving forward. Despite his myriad obligations to funders and board members, staff and committees, he makes sure that he maintains direct contact with the clients that the Family & Children’s Association serves.

“I talk to people who receive our services every single day. Their stories keep me going.”

“And…we have our successes. Despite all of the forces that conspire to make a continually growing need, while funding continues to be grossly inadequate, we do make progress and we’re getting better at measuring that progress.”

Programs that Excite

For all of his attention and care for the systemic issues in the Human Services sector, it’s simple efforts to solve a problem that generate some of Jeff’s greatest excitement. We asked him to name of few of his favorites. Some of these include:

THE HEMPSTEAD SNUG PROGRAM This is a partnership between NYS, the D.A. office and the community. It is an evidence-based program modeled after the “CURE Violence” program devised to address spiking violence in Chicago. A Wikipedia article on that program states that multiple independent studies have found it to be highly successful wherever it’s been implemented. The goal of the Hempstead version is to reduce gun violence, particularly in terms of stemming retribution. It involves former gang members who volunteer to show up at the hospital bedside when a violent act occurs. They talk to the victims. They talk to the families. They talk them down from thoughts of revenge and get them to think a little bit further ahead.

SAFE PASSAGES One of the collateral issues with increased gang activity is that kids feel unsafe going to school. Safe Passages is a very simple, direct effort to address this issue. Volunteers from FCA, including some professionally trained ones, walk kids to school. First and foremost, they get there. Along the way they get mentoring, starting with learning to stand tall and proud in the face of these dangerous distractions. This expands, often, to include much more, particularly as many of these kids could really use quality time with a healthy adult.

LONG BEACH LADDERS TO SUCCESS This program runs in partnership with the City of Long Beach, local universities, trade schools and employers to help the City’s most disadvantaged millennial residents, whose chances of success were further deeply impacted by the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy. The array of services offered includes vocational education, career coaching, case management, transitional housing, and financial literacy education, as well as clinical and counseling programs.

HIRING PRACTICES THAT GIVE A SECOND CHANCE — In an effort to put their money where their mouth is, Family and Children’s Association is directly dealing with the challenge of finding gainful employment for folks who are overcoming some serious issues by hiring them. “We have seen some AMAZING turnarounds,” says Jeff.

TOO GOOD FOR DRUGSThis was work that Jeff was extremely excited about when we first met him as the CEO of LICADD. When asked if he’s still as enthusiastic, he emphasizes that this and other programs he recommends are excellent, “Worlds away from the old ‘DARE’ programs. They are evidence-based, and highly effective.”

“The Challenge is the advent of Common Core. Schools don’t feel like they have time for so-called ‘optional’ things like substance abuse prevention. I hope that as they adjust, they will find the time and we can better integrate social-emotional learning and academics.”

They also seem to feel that the kids already have too much on their plates to focus on this. “The amount of pressure on these kids is through the roof.” Jeff agrees, “What goes through my mind, though, is that this program is beyond preaching about making good decisions, and is designed to give kids tools to deal with stress without turning to maladaptive behaviors. It’s something worth making time for.”

He also hopes that we make time and resources for improved mental health services in schools, and for building trust in those programs among parents. “They are afraid of the stigma and invasiveness. However, these kids need to be able to get help!”

“The amount of pressure on these kids is through the roof.” Jeff agrees, “What goes through my mind, though, is that this program is beyond preaching about making good decisions, and is designed to give kids tools to deal with stress without turning to maladaptive behaviors. It’s something worth making time for.”

Overall, he wants to see parents more engaged and better educated about what can be done as community partners. “We’re all in this together. They need to be prepared.”

Moreover, “It’s really important to me that we maintain our community engagement and, frankly, our edginess,” says Jeff, “That’s the heart of what we do.”

Throughout all of our discussion, he keeps coming back to the Family & Children’s Association’s efforts to increase the level of measurement and analysis. This reveals both proud successes and things that need to change. It also includes questions to staff about their efforts to assist and the quality of their interactions.

“It’s been very insightful. Sometimes we become aware of valuable qualities we didn’t know members of our staff had. Sometimes we’re asking hard questions about why someone is in this field. Mostly, we’re learning what’s working and identifying ways to continually increase our impact”

All told, Dr. Reynolds actively embraces a duality of systems management and practical problem solving, “Sometimes you can effect amazing things on the ground by making improvements to the system. Sometimes, your direct services can have a huge impact on the machine.”

Models to Explore

We asked Jeff what he saw going on elsewhere that he thought Long Island could benefit from. He largely felt that it’s more important to examine the research that exists to support or to rule out different ideas, than to put any particular model on a pedestal.

He noted that Asset Based Community Development  — a community revitalization approach that embraces and builds on the positive elements that already exist in a given community, is very promising. Some of that is happening on Long Island. He hopes we do more.

One thing would love to see is a recovery center on Long Island that would support people after initial rehabilitation services and reduce the rate of relapse. A recovery High School, where kids could complete their grade school education in a supportive environment, would be wonderful.

When he looks to Boston, Massachusetts, he is excited to see criminal justice diversion for addicts happening at the street level. What might happen over the long term if, instead of booking people, we bring them directly into treatment? When it comes to those caught up in violence, the CURE Violence Program has got a lot of evidence to back it up.

There are examples of multi-generational housing that are very community positive. There are also creative approaches to child care and nursery schools that places like the Village of Hempstead could greatly benefit from. He would also love to see more support for caregivers, pointing to models of Respite Houses that provide a break for the families of disabled individuals.

How to Help

Want to get involved? This is what Jeff would love for people to do:

GO WITNESS PROGRAMS. “Even before you volunteer, just come see what we’re doing.” While we might suggest people be mindful that those at work should not be disturbed, Jeff emphasizes that they are approachable and want you to see their work first hand.

“Invest an hour. Tell me how this feels to you. Then, we can talk about the details.”

EXPLORE YOUR OWN MOTIVATIONS. Pure altruism isn’t likely to exist and doesn’t even make must sense, when you get down to it. We all have some reason for wanting to help, be it something in ourselves, or something we wish we could have done for someone else. It’s good for volunteers to know and be honest about that. Jeff will note that it can be simple, “It does feel really, really good to help.”

ENGAGE BUSINESSES AND OTHER NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS. Do come prepared that, yes, they will ask you for money. They would be negligent if they didn’t. Please be advised that you don’t have to give it, and that there may be other more creative ways you can work together. For example, says Jeff, “You need employees. I have some really great people with incredible survival skills. Let’s talk.”

Of course, you don’t have to do that either,

“We need more partnerships. Yes, we need money. Sometimes, though, you can give much more. Talk to me. How can we collaborate?”

“We need more partnerships. Yes, we need money. Sometimes, though, you can give much more. Talk to me. How can we collaborate?”

The Legacy

We asked Dr. Reynolds what he hoped his ultimate impact would be. He answered, That this is a healthier, safer place. All around.”

That’s not an easy task, but that’s not going to stop him. We are grateful.