Wellbridge Addiction Treatment and Research hopes to open its proposed facility at the Enterprise Park at Calverton by November, according to CEO Andrew Drazan.
Last Wednesday, Mr. Drazan and Kevin Goldston, director of venture operations for Northwell Health, gave reporters a tour of the $95 million facility, which is under construction.
Wellbridge, which was approved last year after nearly eight years in the planning stages, is a joint venture between the Engel Burman Group, a major real estate developer that owns the land the facility will occupy, and Northwell Health, the state’s largest health care provider, with 23 hospitals, including Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead, and 70,000 employees.
Wellbridge will be unique in that it will not only provide in-patient treatment for people with addiction problems, but will also conduct addiction research involving some of those same patients, with their consent, just down the hall, Mr. Drazan said.
“It definitely makes it unique,” Mr. Goldston said. “I don’t know of any other large academic health systems that are as integrated into an addition treatment center and supporting research that can be disseminated across the country.”
“We want to collect that data and study it, and we can create new and novel interventions that will create new treatments — that’s the Holy Grail,” Mr. Drazan said. Whatever is learned from the research will be shared nationwide, he said.
There were about 600 deaths from opioid addiction in Nassau and Suffolk last year, which is down a bit from previous years, Mr. Drazan said.
“But everybody is forgetting about the Narcan that was distributed by police and first responders, saving all those people that would have died otherwise,” he added.
Riverhead Town Police Chief David Hegermiller reported last week that one man in town overdosed on three separate occasions and was revived by Narcan each time.
Mr. Drazan says he was driven by his own past to try and address addiction issues.
His mother overdosed by mixing amphetamines and barbiturates with alcohol and died at the age of 35, he said, leaving behind three sons, ages 6, 9 and 11.
Asked why a facility like Wellbridge has never been established before, Mr. Drazan said it’s because there’s no money in it.
“Funding for addiction research has lagged dramatically behind research funding for cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other chronic illnesses,” he said.
The treatment arm of Wellbridge will be a for-profit venture but the research aspect will be not-for-profit.
The reason lending institutions liked the project is due in large part to its location, he said.
“We are within 100 miles of 25 million people,” he said.
The 134,000-square-foot facility will have an 80-bed residential substance abuse treatment and research center on 40 acres of a 100-acre parcel. There will be security cameras and ongoing drug testing. Other features include a 200-seat auditorium, medical rooms, a pharmacy, a chapel, a decaf cafe, a gift shop, a gym, a yoga room, a massage therapy room and a music and arts building.
The auditorium will be used for seminars where high school students, clinicians and “everyone in the community” can learn about addiction, according to Mr. Drazan.
Dr. Jon Morgenstern, assistant vice president of substance abuse services at Northwell, will be research director at Wellbridge, Mr. Drazan said.
In addition, he said, Dr. Harshal Kirane, former director of services at Staten Island University Hospital, will serve as the facility’s medical director.
Elizabeth Moore, who had been chief operating officer at Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan, Conn., will be executive director at Wellbridge.
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