In 1985, James Mills was appointed head of the Philadelphia Anti-Drug/Anti-Violence Network by former Philadelphia Mayor Wilson W. Goode.
Mills had successfully served as Field Operations Director for the Crisis Intervention Network; a nationally-recognized agency that preceded PAAN and dramatically decreased gang-related deaths in Philadelphia for over a decade. Mills ground-breaking initiatives to prevent violence and drug abuse in our city had so impressed Mayor Goode that he was asked to develop PAAN’s business model which exists today.
PAAN’s offices were originally located in Center City but Mills believed that it was important to establish offices in the communities that we served. He, therefore, decided to move PAAN offices to 17th and Lehigh Avenue in North Philadelphia where we currently reside.
Mills established four primary operating departments including; Communications, Field Operations, Preventive Education, and Programs and Special Projects. These departments worked collaboratively with communities, agencies, schools, parents and institutions to serve youth and families.
Under his leadership, PAAN developed a Communications Center which was considered the “hub” of the agency because it was where all of PAAN’s outreach operations were generated. Operators were on standby seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Residents were able to report drug or violent-related incidents or request other services including workshops on drug prevention, assistance with referrals for food, clothing, shelter, and volunteer services. By December 1996 operators handled over 14,600 calls.
PAAN also partnered with various city agencies to provide special programs including; the Youth Alternative Athletic Program, Summer Employment Project, Thank Goodness I’m Female and the UJIMA Project; a program which provided education, mental health, and employment resources for at-risk youth in schools and communities in Philadelphia.
Mills passed away in July 2002. He along with his successor the late Darryl Coates are credited for laying the building blocks for the agency’s growth and success to this day.
More here: Darryl Coates “Never Cheat a Child”