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East End drug treatment, research facility to open next year, officials say

A groundbreaking ceremony was held Thursday for the 80-bed, 133,917-square-foot Wellbridge research and rehabilitation that officials say will offer more convenient treatment options for people on the East End.

Wellbridge, a $90 million, six-building residential substance abuse treatment center in Calverton, broke ground Thursday. Elected officials welcomed the facility as a resource that could help fight the opioid crisis on a local level. (Credit: Newsday / Jean-Paul Salamanca)

A new $90 million drug research and clinical facility in Calverton broke ground Thursday providing what East End officials said would be local treatment options for people struggling with opioid addiction and drug abuse.

The six-building, 133,917-square-foot facility is to be completed next year.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held for what will be known as Wellbridge in the Enterprise Park in Calverton. The center will treat people struggling with opioid and other substance use disorders, as well as conduct research into improving treatment for addiction.

“This is going to become an epicenter for addiction study,” Wellbridge chief executive Andrew Drazen said at the groundbreaking. “We’re very excited to help a lot of people that suffer with this.”

The Riverhead Town Board on March 6 approved the final site plan for the facility. Construction started in September, project officials said.

A detoxification facility, primary care section, research laboratories and wellness center will be among the services provided at the Calverton facility, built through a partnership between Garden City-based developer Engel Burman Group and Northwell Health.

Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said the facility “will serve not only Riverhead but the entire region.”

“As both a treatment center, and as a research facility the lessons learned here will provide better outcomes to patients here in Riverhead, and across Long Island,” Jens-Smith said. “Understanding addiction is the key to preventing it, and in Riverhead, we will be able to proudly say that the important research to do just that will be taking place in our town."

Douglas Albert, 60, of Lindenhurst, said he had struggled with substance abuse since he was 13 years old, including alcohol abuse and opioid addiction, which landed him in jail.

Albert, now recovering, said inpatient and outpatient facilities were “a needed and necessary tool in the fight against addiction.”

“Although today I can stand here and say I am recovered from a hopeless state of mind, body and soul, I am not cured,” Albert said. “The disease of addiction will always be there. I have learned to put my recovery first, because without it, I would have nothing, anyway.”

Suffolk District Attorney Timothy Sini called the Calverton facility “a true innovation."

"That it's going to happen here in Suffolk County warms my heart," Sini said. "Despite all the pain that addiction has caused this country for decades, we still know way too little about this disorder."

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