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Executive Suite: Christine Epifania

Christine Epifania, executive director of Alternatives Counseling, outside

Christine Epifania, executive director of Alternatives Counseling, outside a Southampton location. (Feb. 17, 2012) Credit: Randee Daddona

Ripple effects from the weak economy are boosting the need for substance abuse counseling, says Christine Epifania, executive director of Alternatives Counseling, an agency offering outpatient counseling and drug prevention outreach in Southampton and Riverhead.

She says she's seeing more men ages 19 to 27 -- often unemployed or underemployed -- who've been caught abusing drugs and alcohol and are being sent for counseling by court order.

Epifania says she's also seeing a rise in middle-class families coming for treatment, and more young children are telling Alternatives counselors that they're worried because mom and dad are fighting more.

With funding remaining static and expenses and mandates increasing, Epifania, 62, is using her knack for long-range planning to keep fulfilling her agency's commitment "to really serve this community."

What is your advice to keep kids clean and give them direction?
Ask adults to provide role models and create safe environments. Parents, first of all, talk to your kids. The kids are telling us that more family time -- like dinner with their families -- is helpful. Sometimes parents are working more than one job, and that's a difficult thing. In terms of the prescription drug issue, we ask parents to monitor their medicine cabinet. Are there medications missing? If a doctor has given you 15 pills and you're not using them, can you get rid of them? Pharmacies have Take Back the Drugs Days . . .

Another thing is to tell doctors and dentists in our community, "Don't overprescribe." And at community events where kids are going to be present we can demonstrate that you don't necessarily have to drink to have a good time.

What are the biggest teen stressors?
The stress of getting into college and, for those who aren't going to college, the stress of will they find work.

What trends do you see?
Managed care is getting very big, and the drug and treatment system is having to work through behavioral health organizations and insurance companies. That's tough. We spend a lot of time retrieving [payments] from insurance companies when we make claims. I think most health-care providers are finding this is a tough environment to work in. Also, the trend here is to be underinsured.

What's your biggest headache besides the economy?
The lack of services that are available to refer people to when we see them in need out here . . . They don't get the level of support that they need to get.

What's your favorite way to unwind?
I like to do [collage] artwork and cook. I'm a good Italian cook.

Name. Christine Epifania, executive director of Alternatives Counseling Services Inc. in Southampton.

What it does. Provide clinical services in a treatment program to those struggling with drugs and alcohol.

Employees. 13 full-time, 8 part-time.

Roles they play. Clinical as well as prevention and education services.

Revenue.  $1.2 million, with about $850,000 coming from state and county funding.


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