Friday, March 19, 2010

B.E.S.T Names Paul Ruchames as New Executive Director

The Backstretch Employee Service Team of New York, Inc. (B.E.S.T) announced today that Paul Ruchames has been named executive director of the organization, which provides a full range of health and human services to support workers in the barn areas at Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park, and Saratoga Race Course.

Ruchames, a licensed clinical social worker with more than 30 years of experience will oversee the daily operations of B.E.S.T, including the coordination of health benefits, provision of comprehensive, on-site counseling services for individuals and groups, and the management of on-site primary care clinics for backstretch workers at both Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course. He will oversee nine full- and part-time staff members and more than 125 volunteers.

“Paul’s extensive counseling and social services background make him an ideal choice to lead B.E.S.T,” said David Smukler, B.E.S.T board member and Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Labor Relations at The New York Racing Association, Inc. “He has a proven track record of developing and advancing organizations, and his previous work in the Nassau County and Queens communities provides invaluable perspective on some of the issues facing backstretch workers in New York. We’re delighted to have him on board.”

Since 2008, Ruchames has served as the director of outpatient services and deputy director for the division of substance abuse at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in the Bronx, NY, with administrative responsibilities for 3,600 patients and 220 staff members.

From 1986-2006, Ruchames was the executive director of the Counseling Service of Eastern District New York (EDNY), a non-profit out-patient chemical dependence treatment agency serving the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Nassau County. During his tenure at the Counseling Service of EDNY, Ruchames oversaw all administrative functions including a $3.3 million budget, a staff of 75, and 1,000 clients. He secured an 800 percent increase in funding for the organization and created six new treatment sites.

“I’m very excited to have the opportunity to join B.E.S.T,” Ruchames said. “I feel my career experience to date has given me the foundation necessary to have a major, positive impact on the backstretch population. I look forward to working with all of the stakeholders connected to the racetrack and welcome their input.”

Ruchames holds a Master of Social Work from the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., from which he graduated in 1978. He is a licensed clinical social worker in the state of New York and has a private psychotherapy practice in Floral Park, NY.

In addition to his professional experience, Ruchames possesses wide-ranging volunteer credentials. A current and long-standing member of both the Long Island Recovery Advocates and Board of Nassau County National Association of Social Workers Steering Committee, Ruchames has also served as a member of the Nassau-Suffolk HIV Services Planning Council, a member of Social Workers for Disaster Relief, and a member of Nassau County Executive Task Force on Offender Re-Entry, among many other groups. In 2006, he was named “Social Worker of the Year” by the Nassau County Division of the National Association of Social Workers and in 2003 was an honoree of the “100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care.”

B.E.S.T. is a registered 501(c)(3) agency that provides a full range of health and human services to support workers in the barn areas of the racetracks at Belmont Park, Aqueduct and Saratoga. The goal of B.E.S.T. is to draw upon strong connections to resources in the racing industry and extended community so that we can all help backstretch workers lead healthy and full lives.