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Addiction treatment and research facility set to break ground soon

The Wellbridge addiction research and rehab facility at Enterprise Park at Calverton is set to break ground within the next two months, officials said.

After nearly seven years of working with the town to complete the site plan for the project, originally known as Peconic Care, it finally received site plan approval in January. At Thursday’s Riverhead Town work session, the principals of the facility officially signed the final approvals for the project to proceed.

“We are in the midst of an unprecedented epidemic of prescription drug addiction, that is stealing the lives of our children, destroying families and hurting our community,” Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said. “As the town government, tasked with doing their best for what’s best for Riverhead, we recognize that helping Peconic Care open its doors will offer real help. That this center will offer an enormous impact, both individually through recovery and rehabilitation and beyond.”

Dr. Jon Morgenstern, director of addiction services for Northwell Health, said the facility is projected to open in late 2019.

The facility will be unique in the fact that researchers will study patients who are willing to take part throughout the addiction treatment process, and even after they leave.

“One of the things that we’re excited about is the new brain science that has happened on addictions and our ability to use brain science to develop newer treatments,” Dr. Morgenstern said.

He added that this was an unprecedented opportunity, and staff will be able to tweak the treatment process when they observe what is most effective.

“We are on the front lines in our health care facilities in the opioid crisis that has affected our area,” Dr. Morgenstern said. “This is an enormous opportunity for us to help our communities really overcome what has become an epidemic that’s unexpected.”

The facility will sit on about 40 acres within a 90-acre parcel owned by the Engel Berman Group. The addiction treatment and addiction research center will be housed in the same facility, comprising six buildings, according to the application. The plan includes a 102,000-square-foot main building, a 17,000-square-foot short-term stay building, an 11,000-square foot fitness center and a 2,200-square foot arts, crafts and music barn.

“We’re going to help a lot of people. We’re going to save a lot of lives,” project founder Andrew Drazan said. “It’s such a needed project for the opioid epidemic and addiction in general.”

In March, the applicant was granted tax breaks from the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency, although not as extensive as requested. When it was first proposed in 2013, the project originally sought a 20-year PILOT deal with abatements on county mortgage recording tax and sales tax on materials used in construction.

Instead, developers received a 12-year payment in lieu of a tax deal, meaning they will only pay taxes on the land value for the first two years of construction — 2018-19 and 2019-20. In the third year, Wellbridge will get a 100 percent property tax abatement until 2030-31, when they will resume paying full taxes.

“We’re proud to stand here today and officially declare that the Peconic Care has full approval and full support from Riverhead and we are proud to help them open the doors to hope and healing,” Ms. Jens-Smith said.

Photo caption: A rendering from above of the proposed facility. (Courtesy image)

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