Another staffer called Paley’s statement “magical thinking” and cited his background as an investigative journalist whose work was once nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. “You’re going to tell me a former journalist nominated for a Pulitzer had no idea about the opioid crisis? Come on.”
There are documents that speak to how Paley and other team members were made aware of the scope of the opioid epidemic while working for Purdue, including an email Paley and his team received on November 9, 2015. In it, a McKinsey analyst wrote to Paley and three others, “Hope you had a great weekend! Interesting article on overdoses on opioids.” She shared a New York Times opinion piece titled, “How Doctors Helped Drive The Addiction Crisis,” and went on to note that the “increasing mortality rate of middle-aged white Americans [is] being driven by suicide and drug and alcohol poisonings, particularly Opioid painkillers,” citing statistics that “in 2013, alone, opioids were involved in 37 percent of all fatal drug overdoses.”
One employee said the mood inside the Trevor Project is grim. Some people feel that by advising a manufacturer of addictive drugs that contributed to overdoses and suicides, Paley has “blood on his hands,” adding, “How does he sleep at night?”
The Trevor Project’s mission is founded in suicide prevention and crisis intervention for LGBTQ young people. But to some employees, Paley’s former work for McKinsey seems entirely antithetical to that mission. As HuffPost reported, per one of the released documents, “in a response to a colleague who asked if Purdue was trying to ‘improve impressions of opioids’ or address risk by taking the lead of other companies that had faced tort liability, Paley replied, ‘both.’”
“The first thing you learn in suicide prevention is removing the means and he was out there pushing the means,” one Trevor Project staffer told Teen Vogue. If Paley was working to improve the reputation of opioid distributors, as the documents show, “That means there’s more of these dangerous medications in parents’ medicine cabinets for teens and children to have access to,” the source said.
In 2020, the Department of Justice put out a press release saying “Purdue admitted that it marketed and sold its dangerous opioid products to healthcare providers, even though it had reason to believe those providers were diverting them to abusers.”
The new revelations about Paley’s work on behalf of Purdue adds to a growing list of internal concerns about his leadership. Multiple sources told Teen Vogue that Paley seems to be focused on numerical growth and scale as CEO of the Trevor Project, which they feel sometimes comes at the expense of the actual quality of service. This includes a push to expand services in Mexico as well as a change to internal programming, which in the last few years had crisis managers utilizing a “Multichat” platform to serve several people seeking help at once. One source told Teen Vogue that as of 2020, volunteers are also often expected to carry on multiple conversations with young people in crisis at once. Internal documents obtained by Teen Vogue detailed concerns that crisis workers had with holding multiple conversations at once, including “misreading something someone said and sending an inappropriate response,” “sometimes address[ing] youth by the wrong name,” errors in case records, and slower response times. According to one source, even after being made aware of these concerns, Paley continued with his push for volunteers to use Multichat.