Suzan Swanton, a social worker who was a pioneer in bringing mobile methadone clinics to the addicted and who also headed the Governor's Drug and Alcohol Advisory Council, died of cancer Jan. 15 at her Odenton home. The former Northwood resident was 62.
Born in Fort Monmouth, N.J., she was the daughter of Philip Swanton, an Air Force officer, and Madeline Meder Swanton, a judicial secretary. She grew up in Prince George's County and was a 1970 graduate of La Reine High School, a Roman Catholic school in Suitland. She earned a bachelor's degree in sociology at the University of Maryland, College Park and received a master's degree at the University of Maryland School of Social Work.
"She was an expert in the use of methadone and other medications to treat addiction, and was a leader in providing mobile health services and treatment outside of traditional settings," said Erin Heath, her niece by marriage, who lives in Washington.
She initially worked in the Prince George's sheriff's department and in 1975 began work as an addiction counselor at a Cheverly clinic. She soon attracted the attention of others in her field.
"She was the epitome of what a social worker is meant to be. She was a person who had empathy and understood that addicts were getting the short end of an already short stick," said Dr. Peter Luongo, executive director of Pittsburgh's Institute for Research, Education and Training in Addictions. "She has a passion and she turned hers into deeds. She was a terrific fixer of problems."
She held similar posts at Baltimore's Sinai Hospital and was later the clinical director of the Glenwood Life Counseling Center in Govans, where she worked from 1985 to 1998.
"She and a colleague, Carol Butler, got the grant money to buy a recreational vehicle and outfit it to pass federal and state regulations as a mobile clinic," said Dr. Luongo, who was the director of Maryland's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration. "She wanted to make treatment for heroin addicts more accessible."
Ms. Swanton worked in organizations that treated addicted persons. She had been deputy director of the Institutes for Behavioral Resources and was the clinical services director of Baltimore Substance Abuse Treatment Systems. She was deputy director of Man Alive Research, Inc., served at the Dania Institute and in 2005 was named executive director of the Addict Referral and Counseling Center in Baltimore.
In 2006 Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. named her executive director of the Maryland Governor's State Drug and Alcohol Abuse Council. She was also an official of the Maryland State Opioid Treatment Authority.
In 2001 she was awarded the Nyswander-Dole Award for "extraordinary work and service in the opioid treatment field."
After living on Northwood Drive in Northeast Baltimore for many years, she moved to Odenton when she became a grants project officer at the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a post she held at her death. She administered a program that sought to bring addiction research into general practice.
Ms. Swanton was a member of the National Association of Social Workers for the past 34 years. She was the Maryland chapter president from 2008 to 2010 and was also its chairperson for its Committee on Substance Abuse and Dependence.
"She exemplified the social work value of working toward social justice," said Daphne L. McClellan, executive director of the National Association of Social Workers' Maryland Chapter. "She was an important mentor to me and many others."
She was also the recipient of the Richard Lane Award and the National Catholic Education Association's 1996 Distinguished Graduate Award.
"Suzan was always the most well-read person in the room," said Ms. Heath. "We went to book talks at Politics and Prose and she always reading something. She was a lifelong fan of baseball, especially her beloved Yankees."