SAFE Program


About the SAFE Program – Substance use Assistance for Families through Education and Early Intervention

The SAFE Program (Substance use Assistance for Families through Education and Early Intervention) aims to support recovery and wellness plans for individuals with substance use disorders and mental illness. The program connects a participant with an addiction psychiatrist and/or a hospital volunteer who has had their own personal lived experience with a loved one who struggled with substance misuse and mental health struggles. This shared experience increases solidarity, relatedness, and empathetic connection in the recovery process. Our program adheres to full confidentiality and is completely voluntary.

The program will also help individuals maintain their efforts towards recovery through increased referrals to family services and treatments.

Reducing Stigma

Substance use disorders are treatable diseases. Family members of patients are able to engage with individuals reinforcing that substance abuse is not a moral failing. Compassion and dedicated attention will be given. All our volunteers have their own experiences which they are willing to share to validate the difficulty with stigma that exists in our healthcare system and suggest a way out.

Non-Judgmental Approach

Family consultation members commit to active listening in order to recognize where the family is at in terms of their struggles with their family member who is struggling with substance use. The volunteers  strive to foster a collaborative relationship that reflects the goals, values, and beliefs of the individual.

Harm Reduction Focus

Families can offer insight into resources that have decreased the severity and frequency of negative consequences associated with continued substance use. This can include Narcan kit distributions or connecting to social workers that can offer programs for medication-assisted treatment plans or clean-needle exchanges.

Treatment Continuum

Volunteers help bridge the families to different options they might consider for support in their recovery. While the support is offered while individuals are in the hospital or emergency room, the individuals are offered resources to help with connecting them to the community when the loved one might be their most vulnerable and the family is having a difficult time.

Community as Method

There is unique trust established between a family with a loved one who is struggling and a family who has gone through this before. The pairing embraces a social dyad that supports positive change in an family members behavior and lifestyle. It fosters feedback, reinforcement, and social responsibility that best supports long-term. 


This unique aspect of SAFE also connects family members with experts in bipolar disorder, which is highly comorbid with substance use disorders.

Who are the Family Supports?

  • Parents who are open to sharing their story of their children’s experiences with substances
  • Volunteers who have had loved ones who suffered from substance use problems
  • Addiction psychiatrists from Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian
  • Family members undergo an intensive interview process and training through NewYork-Presbyterian

What to include in a referral?

  • Name of Family member looking for support
  • Brief description of the patient’s situation

What services will be offered?

  • Facilitating of support group meetings
  • Raising awareness of existing social and other support services
  • Modeling coping skills
  • Providing crisis support, especially after periods of hospitalization or incarceration when family members need the most support
  • Sharing personal experiences with their loved one’s struggles with substances

Important Phone Numbers and Contacts

  • Referral:
  • Patient Services at NYP: 212-746-4293
  • CPEP Mobile Crisis Team: 212-746-3700
  • NYP Westchester Behavioral Health: 914-682-9100
  • NYP Methodist Hospital: 718-780-3375
  • Psychiatric Emergency Department: 212-746-0711

Medical Director

Jonathan Avery MD
Director of Addiction Psychiatry and the Stigma Addiction Program  | 212-746-3738


Department of Psychiatry
New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center
1300 York Ave, New York, NY 10065

Weill Cornell Medicine Program for Substance Use and Stigma of Addiction 1300 York Avenue New York, NY 10065 Phone: (212) 746-3738