In the face of a rising opioid addiction crisis across Long Island, Northwell Health has partnered with the Garden City-based Engel Burman Group to create a state-of-the-art detoxification and rehabilitation center in Suffolk County.
The 134,000-square-foot facility called Wellbridge will be built on 40 undeveloped acres in Calverton, Terry Lynam, Northwell’s senior vice president and chief public relations officer, said. The Town of Riverhead approved the Wellbridge site plan at a March 6 meeting.
“We intend to make this facility a center for addiction research and treatment together, which is the first of its kind in this country attached to a major health system,” said Jonathan Morgenstern, director of substance abuse services at Northwell Health. “Having patients down the hall from researchers is very rare in addiction treatment centers. We will continue to follow our clients even after they’ve completed their treatment so we’ll have outcome information on them for years to come so we can track their long-term progress.
“Because we’re starting this program from scratch, we can employ the best evidence-based medicine and the latest technologies that are available, recognizing that recovery is a complicated and long-term process.”
Construction is expected to begin in May on the 80-bed facility and is planned for completion in late 2019. Construction is estimated at $92 million for the six-building facility.
Lynam said the facility will be divided into three areas, with 20 beds for detoxification in a medically stabilized unit, 40 beds for residential treatment for 30-day programs and 20 beds for long-term rehabilitation.
“We’re in the midst of an opioid epidemic of chilling proportions,” said Andrew Drazan, an Engel Burman partner in this venture. “The statistics speak for themselves. Over 500 Long Islanders died in 2017 from opioids. There is not a single one of us who does not know some family that has been harmed by this scourge. This facility will help fill a major gap in substance abuse treatment in our community.”
Lynam said 30 clinicians will be hired for the facility as well as 60 support staff members.
As the largest provider of behavioral health services in the state, Lynam said, the partnership is part of Northwell’s long-term commitment to meeting the needs of the community as well as responding to the major health crisis.
Lynam said beyond treatment, patients will be part of a long-term research study to focus on the disease of addiction.
“What makes it unique is it combines treatment with addiction research, and that includes brain imaging of the clients, other neuroscience investigational methods and pursuing other alternative treatments,” Lynam said. “You usually don’t have research and treatment together in the same facility. As best as we know, it will be the first in the country to do that.”
As part of its clinical offerings, the joint venture will develop a digital platform, which will include remote access to a recovery coach and counselor, and an app for patients to access resources when needed.