Regional Addiction Prevention, Inc. (RAP, Inc.) was established in 1970 as a non-profit, residential drug and alcohol abuse treatment organization in Washington, D.C. We opened as an independent entity and raised funds to support our work. As a pioneer in the use of cultural identity and social consciousness as tools to support personal growth and development, RAP became known throughout the Washington metropolitan area and nationally for our Afrocentric approach to treatment. That approach and our strategies for implementing it intersected with the messages and principles of the Black Power Movement.

The great majority of our clients were African American and poor. Most were involved with the criminal justice system. All lived with smoldering rage over the racial discrimination that was a daily part of Black life. RAP’s treatment “model” grew from our creative thinking about how to best serve these men and women who needed our help and our determination to help them.

Knowing that men and women who abuse substances also battle issues ranging from educational and socio-economic deprivations to sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, our treatment provided sustenance for the whole person—body, mind, and spirit.

Additionally, understanding that a client’s culture is an inseparable part of his or her self-image, RAP created a

curriculum of study to combat the mis-education and demonization that had shaped our clients’ lives. Our intent was to uplift their image of who they are and what they can become.

RAP’s treatment strategies did not conform to the standard definitions of substance abuse treatment. We required our residents to learn African and African American history, to study present-day political and revolutionary events, and to participate in local politics. We immersed them in educational seminars. People of substance who had a story of overcoming to share or uplifting knowledge to impart visited our residents regularly. We were privileged to have Kwame Ture himself teach a series of classes. Other visitors included Mrs. Winnie Mandela, poets Gaston Neal and Carol Beane, and musicians Art Blakey, Betty Carter, Dexter Gordon, Max Roach, Don Cherry, and Hugh Masekela, to name a few.

RAP’s residential treatment experience incorporated several other indispensable principles such as giving back, being good neighbors, and improving the community.  Here are just a few examples of how RAP put these principles into practice:

  • Created the Chancellor Williams Youth Learning Center to reach young people with substance abuse prevention Named to honor the highly respected historian and author noted for his work on African history, the Learning Center provided after-school activities that included tutoring, field trips, cultural explorations, and other educational enhancements.
  • Established the community RAP shop, which provided free food, clothing, emergency housing, and medical referrals. RAP also began the District of Columbia’s first free lunch program for homeless persons.
  • Began a project that allowed mothers to bring their minor children to live in the facility with them while they participated in treatment. RAP was the first program in the city to do so. Our project used parenting classes and the contact of daily living, such as helping children with homework and reading to them each evening, to help forge more supportive family relationships.
  • Opened the first residential facility for substance abusers suffering from HIV/AIDS and provided them both treatment and medical care.
  • Worked with judges and lawyers to keep people facing drug charges out of jail via “third-party custody” and brought them into RAP for treatment instead.
  • Performed innumerable small tasks to make our neighborhood better, such as keeping our block clean, shoveling snow, and cutting grass for seniors.

As time passed, RAP accepted city government funding to support our treatment programs. Those funds came with various mandates for conformity. Nevertheless, because of our bold beginning, RAP still serves this community almost 50 years after its founding, continuing to offer residential substance abuse treatment, HIV/AIDS and mental health services, emergency housing, nutritional counseling, and outpatient primary medical care. Today, our residents and clients include homeless and formerly incarcerated individuals.

The struggle continues.

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