In the movie Traffic (2000), Michael Douglas, plays the Drug Czar whose teenage daughter is a heroin addict. He convenes his staff of the best and brightest to create policy regarding the “drug” problem. He implores his staff to think “outside of the box“ in creating solutions—programs, new methods of intervention, new means of prevention and education. There is an uncomfortable and, ultimately, sad silence. No one says anything. There are no answers just new problems. As Dr. Ted Dushan, a former Swampscott pediatrician and one of the founders of Project COPE in 1970 used to tell me “This is not a drug problem. This is a people problem.” Ted was right.
Project COPE has spent the past 40 years working with people in the Greater Lynn and Westford communities to help them to manage their lives. Someone once told me that life, at its best is “messy.” It is unpredictable and often presents unique and seemingly insurmountable challenges to ordinary people who are just trying to live each day to the best of their ability. Our role has been to provide a safety net to those who need help where challenges can be identified, addressed and hopefully resolved in a manner which is professional, thoughtful, empathetic and kind.
Like human beings, organizations are complex living entities that evolve over time. We are no longer the small storefront drop-in center in Central Square. We have grown and evolved as any living organism as the needs of our community and clients have evolved and changed. I like to think of Project COPE as entering our middle-age—a time in our organizational life where we have achieved some stability, have learned much through doing but understand that there is so much more to know, and can offer some experience, wisdom and comfort to those in need.