Our History



Odyssey House Admissions
219 East 121st Street
New York, NY 10035
(212) 987-5100


Since 1967, Odyssey House has provided innovative services and programs to a broad population of individuals and families struggling with substance use and mental health disorders. It was founded by Dr. Judianne Densen Gerber, a resident psychiatrist working at Metropolitan Hospital in New York City who was dissatisfied with the practice of using drug replacement medications such as methadone as the primary therapeutic intervention.

Adopting a non-traditional treatment approach, she partnered with her patients to form a drug-free Therapeutic Community (TC). The first Odyssey House program was located in East Harlem on 109th Street and provided treatment for 17 ex-addicts; it quickly grew into one of the country's preeminent therapeutic communities - catching the attention of public policy and medical experts.

Over the last 40 years, Odyssey House treatment centers have opened up across the country - in Utah, Louisiana, Michigan and Texas - and in countries as far away as Australia and New Zealand. Though they bear the Odyssey House name, the treatment centers have operated as independent entities since the 1980s.

Expanding Services

Three years after its inception, Odyssey House opened the Teen Leadership Center in response to the pressing epidemic of drug-troubled youths. It was the first publicly-funded adolescent treatment unit featuring a full-service residential high school, family and individual therapy, and vocational services.

In 1973, Odyssey House led the treatment field with the first residential center to help addicted parents and their children - the Mothers and Babies Off Narcotics (MABON) residential center on Ward's Island. Early childhood development counselors and a medical staff attend to the young families, guiding their recovery and providing the necessary skills for parenting in a safe, drug-free environment. A sister site in East Harlem also offers a fully-equipped nursery, preschool, and outdoor playground onsite.

Success at these centers established Odyssey House as the national prototype for family-centered substance abuse services, and earned it the reputation for setting the standard of excellence in the treatment field. Today, as many as 220 young mothers and children live at our Family Centers, making Odyssey House one of the largest treatment system for drug-troubled families in the country.

Since 1992, Odyssey House has also maintained three primary health care clinics onsite so residents can receive medical attention quickly and efficiently. Staffed by board-certified medical specialists, these fully-equipped clinics provide comprehensive primary and specialty medical care for all residents resulting in:

  • Significantly improved medical outcomes
  • Reduced treatment disruptions
  • Elimination of unnecessary and costly emergency room visits 

The Odyssey House ElderCare program was created in 1997 with a grant from the Rosenback Foundation to specifically treat substance abusers age 55 and over. The first of its kind, the program has helped more than 200 seniors successfully re-integrate into their communities and regain productive, drug-free lives.

Odyssey House Harbor provides housing and support to individuals who are coping with homelessness, mental illness and drug/alcohol abuse and prepares them to reintegrate into the community as independent members of society.

Latest Achievements

Recent years have seen further enhancements to Odyssey House's continuum of care services for residents. We:

  • Opened New York's first joint-agency treatment program for chemically dependent parolees with the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) and Division of Parole (DOP). This sets the precedent for future prison rehabilitation programs and establishes best practices for breaking the cycle of recidivism among chemically dependent parolees. The 30-day program will serve up to 1,200 parolees a year at the recently renovated Edgecombe Residential Treatment Facility in Upper Manhattan.
  • Created the city's first publicly funded all-girls residential center. This new program offers intensive counseling, education, and family therapy services for young women in a family-like environment that encourages peer support, individual responsibility, and pro-social values. The 16-bed center also has a fully equipped physical fitness room and yoga facilities.
  • Opened an onsite dental clinic at the Manor Family Center offering general dentistry services to all Odyssey House residential and outpatient clients as well as patients referred by local community-based organizations.

For more than 45 years, Odyssey House's innovative clinical protocols in housing, education, employment, and medical services have demonstrated our commitment to providing quality programs that meet the needs of a changing community of drug-troubled individuals and families.