EPRA's History

Since its inception in 1977, EPRA has provided the vocational rehabilitation link to a full and successful recovery from alcoholism and substance abuse.

Our founders, R. Brinkley Smithers, and John H. Beard recognized that employment is an integral part of continuous recovery. With the aid of original grants from the Union Carbide Company and the Smithers Foundation, they initiated a demonstration project that attempted to fill what they saw as a huge gap in the continuum of services then available to the recovering alcoholic—the gap in vocational services.

Under the guidance of and with substantial support from Brinkley Smithers, this project, called the Employment Program for Recovering Alcoholics, was established. EPRA’s original focus was and is helping clients solve the principal problems faced by the recovering individual–qualifying for, finding, and maintaining employment. Its initial objective was to help recovered individuals explain gaps in their work histories and overcome stigma as they applied for employment.

Until EPRA’s founding, there was no recognized program for helping recovered alcoholics rediscover their employment potential. Since 1977, EPRA has provided services to approximately 10,000 individuals, and serves more than 300 recovering alcoholics and substance abusers annually.

EPRA’s uniqueness is its utilization of vocational rehabilitation and employment as a key treatment component for achieving long-term sobriety. Depending on individual needs, services include: comprehensive diagnostic vocational evaluation with the potential for vocational training; work experience obtained through several weeks of situational assessment, which sharpens clients’ self-management abilities in a work site setting, while helping them make a disciplined transition into a normal working life style; and job readiness training, including computer basics for job search, and job placement.

Studies have consistently demonstrated that job stability is a key factor in establishing long-term sobriety.

Today, EPRA is a bridge back to work for individuals in recovery. With positive and well developed skills, EPRA clients are strongly motivated, conscientious, and eager to make contributions to society. Their success in dealing with a major life crisis and conquering their addiction, gives them the stability and personal insight commonly found in the exceptional employee.

Thousands of EPRA alumni have returned to productive working lives in New York City and beyond. They work at jobs ranging from entry level to senior management, and are helping change previous thinking about recovery.

R. Brinkley Smithers
John H. Beard

“In the old days, the alcoholic was caught in the revolving door of the jail. Then it was the hospital, because the doctors didn’t know how to treat the disease. Early rehab was the same. Out of jail, out of the hospital, out of rehab … out of a job. How could these people who needed to work, who wanted to work, get jobs without references? So I got together with some government agencies, I put up some money myself, and we started a job placement program. Now the recovered alcoholic has someplace to go, a chance to rebuild his life. We’re stopping the revolving doors.”

Source:Town and Country Magazine article from May 1986 about R. Brinkley Smithers “Alcoholism’s Sober Philanthropist” by Harry Minetree.