Charles Curie, AM '79
2011 Recipient of the Edith Abbott Award
Principal and Founder, The Curie Group, LLC
“SSA gave me a disciplined framework for understanding the role of data in assessing and formulating a solution and evaluating the effectiveness of the solution. These tools have been invaluable in bringing what is intuitive — a natural desire to help others — to a conscious level.”
Charles Curie is the principal and founder of The Curie Group, LLC, a management consulting firm specializing in supporting leaders in the mental health and substance use treatment and prevention areas. His commitment is to ensure that people with addictive and mental disorders have the opportunity for full participation in American society.
Mr. Curie grew up in Indiana and completed his undergraduate work at Huntington University, with a double major in psychology and sociology. “I knew I wanted to enter a helping profession, and I also had an interest in public policy, and leadership and management. In exploring what I wanted to do, social work began to emerge as a profession that had options in all of those areas, and seemed ideal as a reflection of my interests.”
“SSA was the only school that I wanted to go to, so I applied and was lucky enough to be accepted. I found right away that the school and the faculty impressed me. There was a commitment to each individual student, and the instructors were helpful at all levels.”
Mr. Curie was inspired by many of his SSA professors, including Karen Teigiser, from whom he learned about the systems approach and the problem-solving process, Dolores Norton, from whom he also learned about systems, and Paul Gitlin, who helped him understand the problem-solving process.
“Being in Chicago was an important experience for me. I grew up in rural Indiana and went to college in a rural area as well. My first fieldwork placement at SSA was with the Illinois School for the Visually Handicapped. While living in Chicago, I also had the opportunity to work at the Erie Neighborhood House where I worked with inner city youth, which expanded my horizons.”
“I left SSA and felt well-equipped. I didn’t know the path I would take, but the key was being prepared for opportunities that would arise throughout my career. I initially envisioned myself doing casework, but moved in the direction of management and administration to help find solutions to larger systemic issues, and to be part of the policy dialogue and process.”
Mr. Curie’s career after SSA included positions as a director of Risk Management Services for Henry S. Lehr, Inc., President and CEO of the Helen H. Stevens Community Mental Health Center, and Executive Director of the Sandusky Valley Center, Inc.
In 1995, Mr. Curie was appointed by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge as Deputy Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. During his six year tenure, he implemented a Medicaid-managed mental health and drug and alcohol care program. He also established and implemented a policy to reduce and ultimately eliminate the use of seclusion and restraint practices in the state hospital system. This program won the 2000 Innovations in American Government Award.
In 2001, Mr. Curie was appointed by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to head the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). From 2001–2006, he led the $3.4 billion agency, which is responsible for improving the accountability, capacity, and effectiveness of the nation’s substance abuse prevention, addictions treatment, and mental health services.
Mr. Curie currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Council of Social Work Education (CSWE) and the Suicide Prevention Action Network USA (SPAN), and is involved with Friends of SAMHSA as well as Park City Center for Public Policy.
“SSA has endured as a preeminent school of social work because its focus is always on looking at data and facts, and keeping the discourse on what works to solve problems. SSA has encouraged innovation in how you apply what you learn from data. SSA is a thought leader, and is not afraid to engage in an ongoing examination of what we practice in the field.”