By Jano Tantongco
The Huntington township is among the locations considered for the planned Long Island Recovery and Outreach Center, part of an initiative to assist substance abusers who have recently started treatment.
On June 29, the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services awarded a $1.5 million grant to nonprofit Family & Children’s Association toward the planned center, which is intended to provide counseling opportunities and a place to socialize with others who are recovering from addiction.
“Addiction devastates the lives of far too many New Yorkers and their families,” stated Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The centers “will provide the necessary resources and support to those seeking recovery and will help us build a stronger and healthier New York for all.”
FCA, a multifaceted group working to benefit underserved children and those battling addiction, is in a formal partnership with the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.
Steve Chassman, LICADD executive director, said Huntington is being considered to “draw young people and families from both counties.”
One of the first locations considered was St. Peter’s Evangelical Church in Huntington Station, but the church has withdrawn its offer to host the center.
“The Congregation Council of St. Peter's Church in Huntington Station has regretfully decided to withdraw from preliminary discussion it had entered into with four social service agencies approved by the state to develop a Recovery Center on Long Island,” Rev. Frank Nelson, pastor at St. Peter’s, said in an emailed statement. “While responding to a vital community need that this congregation's leaders support, it has become obvious that partnering in this effort would not be a good fit for this congregation, its already developed expressions of ministry, and its place in the community.”
The announcement of the planned recovery center comes on the heels of a legislation package signed into law by Cuomo on June 22. It included the addition of 270 in-patient treatment beds across the state, mandated insurance coverage for 15 days for treatment and restrictions on opioid prescriptions.
“It was the most comprehensive legislative package signed into law ever in NYS regarding substance use,” Chassman said. “You had families in very difficult situations to choose over their loved one or, in some cases, thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in treatment that should have been covered if their policy and premiums were paid.”
Chassman said the recovery center and the legislative package were the fruition of years of work.
State Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R-South Huntington) mirrored Chassman, explaining that the legislation was the culmination of research on the heroin problem at local forums, including one at Walt Whitman High School back in September 2015.
“From that information, we were able to see what we lack and where we could make improvements. I think that gave us first-hand experience in terms of what could actually go into the legislation,” he said.
Regarding the recovery center, he said it was important to recognize that the facility would not be an in-patient facility.
“It’s not for addicts,” he said, adding that the center is intended for patients being treated for addiction at other facilities. “This is more of a resource to make sure that people that are recovering don’t relapse.”
He believed that as long as the “community feels it would be a good fit,” a Huntington location could act as a “central locale” between the counties.
Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) lauded the state’s efforts, adding that it was “extremely important” to decrease barriers for patients to access coverage from their insurance companies. His “only caution” focuses on the provision of the package which mandates a three-hour opioid-prescribing course for physicians every three years.
“Another professional mandate may cause some physicians not to bother prescribing much-needed pain medicines,” he said.
In June, the state issued a report that added 2014 to Suffolk’s trend of leading the state in heroin-related deaths by county. The analysis found that the county had 111 heroin-related deaths, and 96 deaths related to prescription opiates.