Densen-Gerber, Judianne 1934-2003

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DENSEN-GERBER, Judianne 1934-2003

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born November 13, 1934, in New York, NY; died of cancer May 11, 2003, in New York, NY. Psychiatrist and author. Densen-Gerber, an activist against such social ills as child pornography and drug addiction, was best known as the founder of New York City's Odyssey House group home for drug addicts. Trained in both law and medicine, she earned her L.L.B. from Columbia University in 1959 and her medical degree in 1963 from New York University; she also received a J.D. in 1969 from Columbia. After completing her internship and psychiatric residency, she created Odyssey House in 1966, which became the Odyssey Institute in 1967. Here residents went through group sessions and tried to help themselves without the use of drug therapies such as methadone. Densen-Gerber was a tireless fundraiser for her cause, and she managed to make many political connections, including friendships with New York's mayor and governor. Her ability to rally support helped her program to expand into Maine, New Hampshire, Michigan, Utah, Nevada, and Louisiana, as well as Australia and New Zealand. However, trouble came in the early 1980s when an investigation revealed some irregular personal expenses in her organization's financial records. The resulting scandal forced her to resign her position as executive director in 1982, though she admitted no wrongdoing; she managed, nevertheless, to remain president of the Australia chapter of the Odyssey Institute until 1986. This would not be her only foray into scandal, however, for in 1999 she was ordered to pay $200,000 in a settlement concerning missing medicinal cocaine from her private psychiatry practice. Much of her later career was spent working at various hospitals. She worked as attending physician at Gracie Square Hospital in New York City from 1982 to 1993, and at Park City Hospital in Bridgeport, Connecticut, from 1985 to 1993; she was also attending physician at Bridgeport Hospital in 1985 and Northwest General Hospital in Detroit from 1985 to 1986. From 1987 to 2000 Densen-Gerber worked in Connecticut, serving on the staff at St. Vincent's Hospital in Bridgeport and from 1993 to 2000 on the courtesy staff at Norwalk Hospital. Densen-Gerber, though considered by some to be confrontational and controversial, was highly respected for her views on drug and alcohol addiction, as well as her work against child pornography and abuse. She related some of her ideas and experiences in her writings, which include the cowritten We Mainline Dreams: The Odyssey House Story (1973) as well as Walk in My Shoes: An Odyssey into Womanlife (1976) and Child Abuse and Neglect as Related to Parental Drug Abuse and Other Antisocial Behavior (1978).



Writers Directory, 18th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2003.


Los Angeles Times, May 19, 2003, p. B9.

New York Times, May 14, 2003, p. A23.

Washington Post, May 20, 2003, p. B7.