Retired White House advisor still helping

Picture the Baltimore/Washington area during 1970’s. America is in the middle of the Vietnam War. The social progressive ideals of the late ’60s continue to grow in the public mind. The feminist movement is at large, and pop culture glamorizes sex, drugs and rock-and-roll.

This is the scene that Lee Dogoloff, now a resident of Dagsboro, entered at age 25. He had just finished his undergraduate studies at the University of Maryland, and was planning on becoming a courthouse judge.

Instead, he received an offer to work for the Narcotics Treatment Administration (NTA) and receive his master’s degree in social work, and his life went in a very different direction.

For two years, Dogoloff served as the deputy administrator of the NTA, managing all NTA operations and serving as a consultant for professional groups and programs. During that time, he saw NTA grow from a program treating 100 people daily to a program treating more than 4,500 people each day. He also attracted the attention of the White House.

In 1972, Dogoloff began working for the Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention in the White House. In 1974, he began working for the Department of Health, Education and Welfare; and, in 1975, he took a position in the Executive Office of the President.

At that point, it was only a matter of time before he was noticed by the president himself, and, in 1977, Dogoloff became President Jimmy Carter’s principal advisor on drug policy. He began to travel the country, assisting various small-time rehabilitation programs in getting the support they needed to survive. He also consulted with federal agencies, Congress and other government executives; helping to establish much of the government’s current drug policy.

At the end of Carter’s term, he began work as the executive director for the American Council for Drug Education; and then as president of Employee Health Programs of Bethesda, Md.

But, in the end, it may be Dogoloff’s perspective, rather than his impressive résumé, that stands out.

“I have always felt, in large and small ways, that I could make a difference; and I don’t say that without humility,” said Dogoloff this week. “If you can create a video for parents to educate them about drug and alcohol abuse, and how to talk to their children, you’re then influencing hundreds of thousands of people.

“In the same way, as a therapist, I can work with people and help them through their own pain; finding a place of peace within them,” he said. “I’ve always felt very privileged to be able to help people move forward in their own lives.”

“To me, it was always important to learn about the program, and to start off at the program level.” Dogoloff explained. “And, even there, I saw one patient at least on a weekly basis.

“I wanted to keep in touch with what was really going on,” he emphasized. “I never wanted to lose track of what this was about. And this was about helping addicts overcome their addictions and lead a pro-social life. You can’t do that unless you understand the program.

“I’ve seen too many people in government that have never seen a client in their lives,” he noted. “So there is often a disconnection between what is going on where the rubber hits the road and what’s going on at the policy level.”

It was a desire to escape the frantic pace of the city that eventually attracted Dogoloff to Dagsboro. Over time, he noticed that he was spending less time in the city, and more time at his Bethany Beach-area home, enjoying the gentler community and climate.

But he hasn’t allowed the relaxed speed of life in the coastal area slow him down. He has instead become active in local politics, working on the campaigns of both gubernatorial candidate Jack Markell and 38th District state representative candidate Kay Ryan.

Dogoloff still maintains a part-time private therapy practice, assisting adolescents and families in the treatment of alcohol and drug abuse, as well as with anger management and other mental health issues. He also continues to serve as a consultant to businesses, schools and various community groups. Dogoloff is a court-appointed special advocate, and the vice chairman of A way-home that boasts a 89 percent rehabilitation rate for ex-prisoners attempting to return to society.

“Retirement is the opportunity and the luxury to do what I want; and that’s what I’m doing,” he said.