Ed Thompson: Veteran With A Vision

Ed ThompsonWhen you hear the name Ed Thompson, New Yorkers may think of a Samaritan Daytop Village program. But for certain staff members, Ed Thompson will always be the man who inspired a new treatment standard for veterans struggling with addiction and PTSD.

Brooklyn native Ed Thompson first came to Samaritan Daytop Village in 1981 as the new Program Director of the Richmond Hill Medically Assisted Treatment Center in Queens. In time, he was selected to become the first Program Director of the agency’s newly opened Highbridge Residential Treatment Program in the Bronx. He also spent some time working at the Van Wyck Residential Treatment Program in Queens.

Within the agency, Ed became known as a strong advocate for veterans. He created and facilitated peer-led groups for vets, leaning on his own experience with not one but two Armed Forces. Ed joined the National Guard while still a teenager and served from 1948-50. He then joined the U.S. Army in 1950. He saw combat during the Korean War and four years later was honorably discharged as a sergeant.

His transition into civilian life was not a smooth one. Ed felt alienated and isolated. His doctor diagnosed him with “battle fatigue” – which today is now called PTSD. To cope with the war-time trauma he experienced, he began to drink excessively. When that did not erase the pain, he turned to heroin. His addiction began to interfere with every part of his life. Once it began to affect his family, he sought help through group therapy.

In recovery and grateful, Ed realized he wanted to help other veterans struggling with addiction. He then began his career in the substance use field where he found his community and flourished.

Through his own initiative, Ed organized a one-day trip for veteran clients to visit military memorials in Washington, DC. The outing was such a powerful experience that it has become a beloved annual tradition for the three Veterans Programs. When the group pilgrimage became a multi-day event, the agency received funding from the New York City Council – and still does to this day.

edthompson 7 XLYet the peer-led groups were not enough for the vets. In the 1990s, the client census at Samaritan Daytop Village spiked as soldiers returned from combat from the Gulf War. Making an inspired connection, Ed recommended a treatment setting that understood the powerful bond veterans shared as well as leveraged the cultural cues and communication styles of the military. His vision inspired the launch of the 43rd Street Veterans Program, Samaritan Daytop Village’s first veteran-specific treatment program, in 1996.

Ed would eventually retire from the agency and move to Ohio. In 2008, he attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony for our second veterans’ treatment facility, which we named after him, the Ed Thompson Veterans Program.

About the Ed Thompson Veterans Program

First opened in 2006, the 50-bed center offered intensive, evidence-based treatment to male veterans. Housed in a 50-year-old building, the center would be modernized inside and out over the years, thanks to a $7.5 million capital grant from the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports. The renovation added 9,500 square feet of space to the building, including two floors of dormitory spaces, a client lounge, and a quiet/reading room. Central heating and air conditioning were integrated throughout the center in addition to ADA-compliant ramps and an elevator. A beautiful outdoor space brought a new basketball court, grilling and seating area, and a communal garden for the men to enjoy.


If you would like to refer someone for treatment, contact Central Admissions at 855-322-4357 (HELP) or complete the online admissions form.

To make a financial or in-kind donation benefiting the Veterans Programs, contact Samaritan Daytop Foundation directly or call (718) 206-2000, ext. 1285.