Sorta, maybe an alcoholic

Is the well-connected Delancey Street merely helping Gavin fine-tune his future?
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gwschulz@sfbg.com

To read about Delancey's finances, click here.

What exactly is Gavin Newsom doing at Delancey Street?

It's not counseling, we're told. It's not rehab. It's not detox. It's not a typical course of treatment at the storied $20 million nonprofit. So what is it beyond a reprieve from the otherwise ugly headlines?

Newsom isn't talking much about his program. But some mental-health professionals are raising serious questions about his regimen.

San Francisco's chief executive declared several weeks ago in a public announcement to all the city's department heads that he was seeking a diluted version of rehab at Delancey Street.

That struck more than a few people as odd. Delancey Street doesn't do part-time or outpatient treatment. It only takes clients who agree to a long-term, full-time residential program geared entirely toward hardcore alcoholics, drug addicts, and criminals.

It's not, in other words, a place where someone in Newsom's condition would typically seek help. And it's not a place designed to alleviate a comparatively minor thirst for white wine.

The news certainly appalled Dee-Dee Stout.

Stout is a City College of San Francisco professor and an adjunct faculty member at San Francisco State University. It's her job to train city employees working in any major capacity that involves medically treating alcohol and drug abuse, from San Francisco General Hospital to Community Behavioral Health Services to the Adult Probation Department.

Stout, a certified drug and alcohol counselor, told us friends who'd seen the headlines said, " 'Oh god, Dee-Dee's going to hit the roof on this one.' And they were right."

She struggled to figure out how she could broach the subject to one of her classes at City College — but a student beat her to it, quickly pointing out that it was unethical for credentialed treatment specialists to counsel their close friends. The two-year recertification required of caseworkers in the city includes an ethics update, Stout said.

Delancey Street's executive director, Mimi Silbert, has been Newsom's friend since he was a child and knows his father well. Silbert, in fact, has openly discussed Newsom's progress with the press, including the Guardian, while the mayor's own ear-piercing silence on the matter enables him to appear repentant.

Stout decided to offer the student extra credit if he drafted a letter outlining the concerns of the class, which she had colleagues review before sending it along to the entire Board of Supervisors, the Mayor's Office, and pretty much every major newspaper in town.

"This relationship is not acceptable under any applicable code of professional ethics," the letter states. Hardly anyone bothered to write back, save for the auto-response letters Stout received from Sophie Maxwell and the Mayor's Office, plus a letter from Bevan Dufty urging Stout and her students to empathize with Gavin during this difficult time.

Silbert, for her part, told the Guardian that ethics weren't a concern for her because Newsom wasn't a full-tilt drunk and hadn't submitted completely to a detailed treatment plan when he approached her for help.

"The mayor is not a drug addict," Silbert said. "That's not what he was looking for.... Having stopped drinking, he wanted to take a look at himself. He drank what people would call 'socially.' I've seen other people when they stopped drinking — even people who didn't need detox — and there were physical signs of problems.

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