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Lindenhurst High to host Babylon Town alcohol, drug office

From left, Judith Raimondi, founder of Lindenhurst Community

From left, Judith Raimondi, founder of Lindenhurst Community Cares Coalition, Lori Novello of the coalition, Delores Bocklet of Babylon Town's Division of Drug & Alcohol Services and Christopher Gitz, principal of Lindenhurst High School, on Tuesday, March 22, 2016. The school will host a satellite office for the town's drug and alcohol services program. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Lindenhurst High School soon will be the site of Babylon Town’s first satellite office for alcohol and drug services.

The program comes to the school after a push from community members concerned about a rise in substance abuse among teenagers. Spearheading the drive was Judith Raimondi, 48, a Lindenhurst mother of three who in April 2013 was shocked when her high school freshman daughter told her that her friend had just gotten out of rehab.

Months later, Raimondi and another mother formed the Lindenhurst Community Cares Coalition, a nonprofit aimed at drug and alcohol education and prevention.

“I was new here,” Raimondi said. “I had moved from the boroughs to Long Island to have my children in a safer environment, not realizing the epidemic had infiltrated middle America.”

The following year she learned of a 16-year-old in the community who had apparently died of a drug overdose. Having heard of satellite substance abuse programs in other districts, Raimondi wrote a letter to the Lindenhurst school district’s then-Superintendent Richard Nathan asking for something similar to Babylon Town’s prevention program.

Like Nathan, current Superintendent Daniel Giordano thought it was a good idea.

“We’re trying to give students as much of an outlet to help as we can,” Giordano said. “If it saves one child, it’s worth it.”

A counselor from the Drug & Alcohol Services department for Babylon Town’s Beacon Family Wellness Center in North Babylon will be on-site in an office that Giordano said is isolated to give students privacy.

The counselor will be there two days a week, near the end of the school day and after school.

Delores Bocklet, director of the town program, said this is a first for the town, but there are schools that have similar services.

“I think what is unique is that the community asked for us to be in the school,” she said.

Bocklet said having a satellite program that is only available to students will allow those who don’t drive to have access to services. The counselor will talk with students about their issues — or substance abuse problems their friends or parents are having — but they will be referred to the town’s main program for further treatment.

“The satellite is mainly a sort of triage,” she said.

Students are entitled to confidentiality, Bocklet said. However, “the ultimate goal is to bring their parents into the treatment process.”

The town’s program serves 400 to 500 people a year, Bocklet said, a number that’s on the rise. While the heroin epidemic “gets the big attention,” she said, alcohol is still the No. 1 problem for both adults and adolescents.

“Parents need more education on the dangers of alcohol and that it’s not a normal rite of passage for kids,” she said. She anticipates the satellite program will kick off within a month.

Raimondi called the satellite a much-needed “safety net.”

“Sometimes you can help a kid before they fall, but other times, not so much,” she said. “At least this will be available and hopefully kids will utilize it.”

Town’s drug outreach center

The Town of Babylon Division of Drug & Alcohol Services at the Beacon Family Wellness Center in North Babylon serves about 400 to 500 people per year and aims to provide “comprehensive, affordable and accessible chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health treatment services” to residents.

The division is “dedicated to supporting individuals and families in their recovery process through information and referral, education, counseling, interaction and cooperation with other agencies and respect for self-help programs.”

The 2016 budget for the center is $1.06 million. The program is funded through the New York State Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services, the Suffolk County Department of Mental Hygiene and Babylon Town.

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