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Amity's History

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Immediately, Arbiter appealed to the Board for permission to take substance abusing women who had children. She also changed the entire focus of the residential program, going from a “half-way house” operation to a very intensive therapeutic community mode

History, despite it’s wrenching pain, Cannot be unlived, but if faced...with courage, need not be lived again

- Maya Angelou

 

Amity began as Tucson Awareness House in 1969 — initiated by some local teachers and community leaders who became aware of the extensive use of narcotic drugs by high school students in Tucson. This group began a number of small programs which provided local services to adolescents and adults over the next few years. In 1981, Naya Arbiter was hired as the Director of the residential program, which was having serious problems. She was given ninety days to either get the program operating properly or to close it.

Ms. Arbiter took to the work with a vengeance; and soon her energy and positive vision had accomplished more than the Board of Directors could have hoped.

Immediately, Arbiter appealed to the Board for permission to take substance abusing women who had children. She also changed the entire focus of the residential program, going from a “half-way house” operation to a very intensive therapeutic community model which put tremendous demands on both staff and residents to form a “learning community” Arbiter distinguished Amity as a “teaching and therapeutic community,” emphasizing that all participants (including the staff) had to demonstrate daily learning. As a result of Arbiter’s innovations, it’s accomplishments were quickly recognized outside of Arizona; in 1986, Amity was recognized by the U.S. Senate as a model for its work with juvenile offenders; in 1987, Arbiter was appointed by the President as one of 125 national experts tapped for the White House Conference for a Drug Free America. Later, Arizona Senior Senator Dennis DeConcini visited Amity and was particularly impressed with the success of addicted mothers who were allowed to bring their children to Amity during their recovery process. DeConcini asked Amity senior staff to work with him to design a federal initiative which made over $100 million in funding available for programs throughout the U.S. that used elements of Amity.

Arbiter recruited two long-time colleagues, Rod Mullen and Bette Fleishman, to work with her developing Amity. The trio developed a number of innovative programs, including:

  • services for substance abusing and violent juvenile offenders
    those infected with or at high risk of HIV infection;
  • the largest federally funded array of services for women and children in the U.S.
  • a nationally recognized program in the Pima County jail for substance abusing offenders
  • A research demonstration project to provide services for homeless substance abusers
  • intensive services for men and women under criminal justice supervision in the community
  • services for men with lengthy histories of incarceration, violence, and substance abuse in the California prison system
  • Currently Amity’s activities span California, Arizona and New Mexico.

Articles with more detail on Amity's services are available in the library section of this web site. Click to view Articles