FARGO-Michael D. Kaspari, a prominent advocate of drug treatment and member of the Mayor's Blue Ribbon Commission on Addiction, has died after suffering a traumatic brain injury from a fall.
Kaspari, 57, was co-founder and director of First Step Recovery, a program of The Village Family Service Center in Fargo.
He fell backward on the basement steps of his home April 9, according to posts from his family on the CaringBridge website. The blow caused a subdural hematoma, or pool of blood between the brain and skull.
Despite emergency surgery to relieve pressure, Kaspari died from the injury on Sunday, April 16, his family said.
"He was so committed to his work," said Rick Henderson, chairman of the board at The Village. "He was committed to doing the best possible practices. He was always learning, always growing."
Colleagues described Kaspari as unfailingly friendly and enthusiastic.
"As a person, he was just an extremely friendly, happy guy," Henderson said, adding that he did a lot of behind-the-scenes policy work. "Mike just did tons and tons of work that was never compensated."
Before entering the addiction treatment field, Kaspari worked as a registered nurse in critical care and emergency care. He was a clinical instructor at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, and was a past chairman of the North Dakota Addiction Treatment Providers Coalition.
Pat Traynor, executive director of the Dakota Medical Foundation, said Kaspari brought a high level of expertise to the Mayor's Blue Ribbon Commission on Addiction.
"He enthusiastically volunteered to help us," and headed the commission's committee on treatment and recovery, Traynor said. "It's a tremendous loss. He was just a treasure and a gifted individual."
Doug Vang, president of The Village, called Kaspari "extraordinarily dedicated and passionate," and credited him with helping to bridge programs to battle addiction.
"He connected the medical world and behavioral health world," Vang said. "He had an innate ability to connect with all the players."
Although those recovering from addiction are prone to relapse, those who are in counseling have a much better prognosis than those who aren't, a point Kaspari never tired of delivering.
"He knew that treatment was effective," Henderson said. "That was probably a message he brought over and over and over again."
A prayer service will be held at 7 p.m. Friday, April 21, at First Lutheran Church, 619 Broadway, Fargo, preceded by visitation from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., according to Hanson Runsvold Funeral Home, which is handling arrangements.
A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 22, at First Lutheran Church, with visitation from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.