The Early Days – Founding of CSAM

CSAM grew out of the need to get the treatment of addiction into the medical mainstream and to remove legal restrictions that prevented physicians from treating addicts. “State law at that time was still a holdover from the early 1900s …At the time we were getting organized, doctors treating opioid addicts were technically in violation in the law – its language stated that no doctor could treat addicts outside of a state or county hospital or jail,” CSAM’s founder, the late Jess Bromley recalled in CSAM News.

When two doctors in Riverside County were charged for secretly admitting heroin addicts to a community hospital to manage their withdrawal, Bromley called David Smith, founder of the then newly founded Haight-Ashbury Free Medical Clinics. “I was sitting in the detox clinic when Jess Bromley called and told me two doctors had just been arrested for doing what I do every day. That really got my attention,” Smith remembered.

With the help of the CMA, Bromley and others authored a bill in 1971 to change the restrictive state drug laws. “We got about 20 people together and drove back and forth to Sacramento to lobby for change. Senator George Moscone became an ally and the CMA was on our side. We took the issue to one of the early Haight-Ashbury Free Medical Clinic Conferences and got grass roots support. We got the law changed at last,” Bromley recalled.

CSAM’s efforts to move the treatment of addiction into mainstream medicine involved both getting recognition within the CMA and also getting support for the new organization within academic medicine.