Long Islanders struggling with a combination of mental health and substance abuse disorders now have a new center where they can get services and treatment.
Suffolk County law enforcement officials Friday announced the opening of a new integrated program at Family Residences and Essential Enterprises' outpatient Success Community Care Clinic in Oakdale.
The program allows the facility, which previously served 800 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental illness and traumatic brain injuries, to expand its reach to include members of that community who also struggle with addiction to fentanyl, heroin, cocaine and prescription opioids, said FREE chief executive Christopher Long.
"It's an integrated care model that's highly individualized to ensure that we're treating the whole person," Long said. " … And we recognize that recovery is not a race. It's a journey. So we meet people where they are. Everyone's at a different stage and we are here to support them accordingly."
The program, which is partially funded through the state's Office of Addiction Services and Supports, will also target Long Islanders in underserved communities who may not have access to the counseling, psychiatric care and drug and alcohol treatment offered at FREE, he said.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse has found that many individuals who develop substance abuse issues have also been diagnosed with mental health disorders.
"We really felt that we were missing a piece of services," said Nicole Wolf, the Oakdale facility's chief program officer. "We're able to treat people with intellectual disabilities and behavioral health needs. But we really needed to complete our continuum [of services] by being able to treat people with addiction needs."
Suffolk District Attorney Raymond Tierney said 399 individuals in the county died from fentanyl overdoses alone last year.
"That number I expect will rise as more and more examinations occur," Tierney said. "So clearly this is a crisis."
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison said his department has responded to more than 1,200 fatal and nonfatal overdoses in the first nine months of 2023 and another 3,800 calls related to individuals with mental health issues.
"And we've seen an unfortunate increase in suicides as well," connected to individuals struggling with mental health disorders, Harrison said.
Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. said for the men and women incarcerated at county jails in Yaphank and Riverhead, addiction has a cascading effect, impacting not just the addict but their loved ones as well.
"Think about not only the men and women who have addiction issues," Toulon said, "but their family members and their children who are coming to visit them."
More than 300 people died of fatal drug overdoses in Nassau last year, county officials said in June, up from 270 overdose deaths in 2021, according to the Nassau County Medical Examiner’s office. Fentanyl caused 190 of those deaths, statistics show.