He Was A Great One…

Harold Ostrow was 90.

A really good man died last week and I’m afraid that his passing might get lost in the fire hose of information that is our world these days.  

Harold Ostrow passed away March 10 and it’s important to stop and reflect on his legacy because he was really important to our community. One of those unsung heroes who provided quiet but steady leadership for decades. 

Harold lived west of Delray Beach and is best known for founding the Voters Coalition of Palm Beach County. 
The Voters Coalition was a non-partisan civic association that quickly grew into a powerful and respected force in Palm Beach County and beyond.

Elected officials from Governors, Senators, County Commissioners, School Board members, judges and mayors beat a path to the Voters Coalition door seeking endorsements and an audience with its leadership. 

They did so because the Voters Coalition stood for what was best for the community and they commanded respect as a result. They also influenced a whole lot of votes. 

I got to know Mr. Ostrow in my newspaper days. I would attend Voters Coalition meetings and dinners because that’s where you’d find all the newsmakers. 

When I ran for office, Harold was generous with advice and encouragement even though he didn’t live in the city limits. He believed in good government and cared about Delray Beach. His synagogue, Temple Sinai, was in our city and he saw himself as a stakeholder. 

He was a kind, gentle and very intelligent man and I enjoyed every one of our many conversations over the years. 

I also admired his dedication to community service. He chaired the Palm Beach County Health Care District, where his leadership led to the creation of the Trauma Hawk; helicopters that ferried those in need to two trauma centers including one in Delray. 

Later, when I served on the Board of Directors for Delray Medical Center, Harold was a great touch stone and gave me solid advice on issues relating to health care in our service area. 

To give you further insight into his dedication, Mr. Ostrow was affectionately known as “Mr. Civic.”
He served on the Palm Beach County Finance Authority, Solid Waste Authority’s Citizen Advisory Committee, Judicial Nominating Committee and countless other boards and task forces. 

As chair of the Health Care District, Mr. Ostrow he worked with the School District to create behavioral health programs that served 170,000 students. 

All of this after a lengthy career in the textile industry and as the owner of a popular ice cream shop in New York City. 

He “retired” in West Delray and created a whole other rich life. All while still being there for his family and his wife of 70 years (that’s not a typo) Lenore. 
It’s really remarkable when you think about it. 

There are other examples of course, role models all. But Harold was extra special. 
And we will miss him. 

I’m not sure they make them like that anymore. But I sure hope they do. 
Men and women dedicated to the community, in it for the long haul and for all the right reasons. 

They give back, they pay it forward. They were members of the “greatest generation” and they have a lot to teach us. 
Farewell, my friend. Thanks for teaching so many so well for so long.

SUD Talks: A Model For Conversation

We attended SUD Talks on Saturday night at the Crest Theater.
The event is a TED Talk like confab that shines a spotlight on one of the most vexing issues of our time: addiction or substance use disorder (SUD).
The event was produced by former Delray Drug Task Force Director Suzanne Spencer. A standing room only crowd heard from elected officials (US Representative Lois Frankel and State Attorney Dave Aronberg), large local employers seeking to give people a second chance, treatment providers, counselors, people in recovery and our Police Chief Jeff Goldman.
It was a powerful and poignant evening.
As we all know, addiction, recovery, heroin, sober homes and its impact on lives, neighborhoods, public safety personnel and budgets are front and center in the Delray municipal election which is in 8 days.
With every candidate talking about the issue it was conspicuous to see only one candidate–Jim Chard–show up; especially for the Seat 2 race which seems to be built on the impact of the industry on Delray.
But maybe we shouldn’t be surprised at all.

Mr. Chard has been working on the issue with the Drug Task Force and lives amid sober homes in his neighborhood. He’s hard at work, knows the issue inside and out and knows the players who can actually affect change.
His opponents–have been largely absent on the issue. One has a Facebook page long on vitriol, but short on solutions.
I prefer my leadership to be real not virtual. And to be real, you have to be present and invested.  If  you expect progress, it’s important to support candidates who are involved in the issue not merely paying lip service to it. And that’s enough politics…for today anyway.
What’s been great about the Drug Task Force and SUD Talks is its depth and its power to convene the key players on the issue.

SUD Talks dived into the nuances and humanity of the crisis which is multi layered and complex.
The evening took us inside the world of the police officer showing up at the chaotic scene of an overdose and being tasked with saving a life.
Delray officers responded to over 600 such calls last year, Chief Goldman told the standing room only crowd. That’s astounding and tragic.
But to listen to our Chief in person is to get a glimpse into the challenges facing our officers every single day. It’s also evident that Chief Goldman is immensely proud of his officers and deeply concerned too, as good leaders should be and Jeff is a good leader.
I happen to know many officers. They are hard working, dedicated and stressed. So are our firefighter/paramedics. This is a challenge without a defined play book.
We also heard from Dr. Ashok Sharma, a psychiatrist at Fair Oaks Pavilion, which is part of Delray Medical Center.
Dr. Sharma bravely talked about burn out among clinicians, counselors and treatment center staff as they deal with complicated cases and “frequent fliers” –people who consistently relapse.
He acknowledged the real dangers of burn out and his talk focused on the importance of compassion and empathy as a way of reconnecting with the very reason why professionals enter the field.
It was a powerful and real speech. And citizens and policymakers need to hear from the providers and front line personnel on this crisis in order to understand the scope of the challenge.
We heard uplifting stories as well; of people thriving in recovery, overcoming adversity, finding meaning, love and health.
A recent post on this blog warned of the barrage of election mail and messaging sure to come this week.
The issue of recovery–a national one–but one of great importance in Delray Beach will be front and center.
Candidates will tell you they will close sober homes, drive the industry out and clean up neighborhoods.
Many will ignore the complexities, laws and nuances surrounding the issue.
They almost certainly won’t discuss the need for these services in this and every community. Almost everyone has been or will be touched with addiction issues in their lives.
It would be nice to remember these are our son’s and daughters, fathers, mothers and friends caught in the grip of a deadly disease. I have several friends who came here for recovery and have become stellar contributors to our community.
Compassion and intelligent conversation is needed if we are to truly make a dent and rid our neighborhoods of bad operators and those who exploit people needing help.
SUD Talks delivered that by convening the agents of change in our community.
Delray has a serious problem. Our city is not alone.

But it’s also good to know that our community and Palm Beach County are on the cutting edge of leading the way for communities across Florida and America.

FAU Med School Gets Record Number of Admissions


FAU Med School soaring.

FAU Med School soaring.

Nearly four years since its inception, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at FAU has received a record-breaking 4,370 applications for 64 positions for the incoming class of 2015. The College also received 4,739 applications for 36 positions in the University’s first residency program in internal medicine. These numbers represent a 35 percent increase in medical school applications from last year, and a 22 percent increase in applications for the residency program from the previous year.


“The response we have received from prospective applicants to our medical school and internal medicine residency program is outstanding and truly speaks to the quality of our programs in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine and our hospital partners in the FAU Graduate Medical Education Consortium,” said David J. Bjorkman, M.D., M.S.P.H., dean and executive director of medical affairs in FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine.


Demographics of the applicants for the M.D. program show that 52 percent are Florida residents (nearly half of these applicants are from South Florida) and 48 percent are from out-of-state. Fifty-four percent are male and 46 percent are female. Qualified students from groups currently underrepresented in medicine are included in the applicant pool—20 percent are Asian/Asian Indian; 16 percent are Hispanic; and 12 percent are African/American. The average Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is 33.5 with a GPA of 3.8.


“This has been a stellar year for our new medical school and we are delighted to have so many qualified candidates apply to our unique and personalized medical education program,” said Betty Monfort, assistant dean of admissions in FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine. “The high volume of applications we have received indicates that there is a great demand for a high-quality state medical school in this region.”


The first class of 36 residents in FAU’s internal medicine residency program began last June. Boca Raton Regional Hospital is the primary site for the program with participation from Bethesda Hospital East and Delray Medical Center, three of the five hospitals participating in the Graduate Medical Consortium (GME) supporting FAU residency programs. The other two participating hospitals in FAU’s GME Consortium are St. Mary’s Medical Center and West Boca Medical Center.