In 1998, Open Society Foundations (OSF) officially opened its first–and still only–U.S. field office, Open Society Institute-Baltimore. Throughout 2018, we’ll use the logo above to mark this momentous year and host events and discussions about our history, our present, and our future (click here to receive updates).
Twenty years ago, the idea was to hire a local staff, identify a committed local advisory board, and provide resources to local grantees to help tackle the most difficult, systemic issues–ones that few organizations were focused on. It was hoped that this work would not only improve conditions in Baltimore, but identify approaches that could be tailored to be used by cities facing similar issues across the country.
The first staffer was director Diana Morris, who in turn hired Pamela King to launch the Community Fellowships program, which recently announced its 20th cohort of Community Fellows. The first member of the Advisory Board was the remarkable Clinton Bamberger, who passed away last year.
Over the years, we’ve approached issues like drug addiction treatment, criminal justice reform, and youth development in various ways, many of which have had significant, permanent impacts on our city and, indeed, were replicated in other parts of the country. A few examples:
- Our Baltimore Buprenorphine Initiative introduced and institutionalized the use of Buprenoprhine to treat addiction in Baltimore, helping innumerable people suffering with substance use disorder. The initiative has been replicated in many US cities and Canada.
- Working with the Baltimore city school district, we introduced changes to disciplinary procedures that reduced suspensions from 26,000 in the 2003-04 school year to fewer than 10,000 in the 2009-10 year and just 6,800 in 2015-16. As a result, OSI was asked to revise the disciplinary code for the whole state and continues to work with city schools to institute restorative practices throughout the district.
- Our work with the Baltimore City Health Department to respond to the overdose epidemic, detailed in this jointly-released paper, contributed to a reduction in overdose deaths through 2010 and has been replicated in other cities.
Of course, this is just a tiny sampling of the impact our work has had–and as the rise of overdoses in recent years makes clear, we need to constantly adjust our strategies and try new approaches. Here are some highlights of our work over the past year.
Stay tuned for more information.