Amit Paley, executive director and CEO of the Trevor Project, which assists LGBTQ+ youth in crisis, is facing calls for his resignation after revelations about his work as a consultant to a manufacturer of opioid drugs.
Before assuming his current position in 2017, Paley was an associate partner at McKinsey & Co., a global consulting firm. One of the McKinsey clients he worked with was Purdue Pharma, maker of the prescription painkiller OxyContin (generic name oxycodone), which is highly addictive.
“Paley worked on projects with the goal of increasing opioid sales and helping to boost Purdue Pharma’s brand — even after the devastating effects of the opioid crisis, with Purdue as a key player, had become clear,” Teen Vogue reports. His work with Purdue was also detailed in a recent HuffPost article.
Accounts vary as to how extensive Paley’s involvement with Purdue was, but several staffers who spoke to Teen Vogue characterized him as hypocritical for working for a suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization after having helped promote a drug associated with high risks of overdose and suicide.
“The first thing you learn in suicide prevention is removing the means, and he was out there pushing the means,” a Trevor Project employee told Teen Vogue under condition of anonymity. The magazine interviewed about a dozen staffers, and most of them said Paley should resign. Some had other issues with his management as well, saying a focus on growth had diminished the quality of services the group provides to clients.
After the HuffPost article was published, Paley sent an email to Trevor Project staff that was shared with Teen Vogue. “If I knew then what I know now, I would not have agreed to do any consulting work for [Purdue] and I regret that I did,” he wrote. He gave similar statements to Teen Vogue and HuffPost.
Some employees found this disingenuous, questioning how he could not have known about the harm done by OxyContin. But one told Teen Vogue there is “room for forgiveness,” and others expressed concern that the Trevor Project’s work would be undermined. “It’s a service I wish I had as a queer teen,” one employee said. “My biggest fear is it won’t exist [anymore].”
Purdue Pharma and its owners, the Sackler family, have agreed to pay $6 billion to settle lawsuits brought by states around the nation over the opioid crisis. The company has also reached two plea agreements with the U.S. Justice Department in which it admitted criminal wrongdoing. McKinsey, which provided consulting services to other opioid manufacturers as well, has agreed to pay nearly $600 million to settle investigations into the role it played in promoting the drugs.
The Advocate has sought comment from the Trevor Project and will update this story when a response is received.
If you or someone you know is distressed, you can call the National Suicide Hotline at (800) 273-8255. Trans Lifeline, designed for transgender or gender-nonconforming people, can be reached at (877) 565-8860.