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OpinionEditorial

The need for opioid rehabilition is everywhere

The St. Ursula Center has been a retirement

The St. Ursula Center has been a retirement and spiritual retreat center for the Ursuline Sisters since 1935. Credit: Erin Geismar

The neighborhood around the St. Ursula Center in Blue Point is awash with activist yard signs, some blue and some red, but there is no election in the offing, and the varied placards demand a single outcome. The red ones read, “SAY NO! TO SEAFIELD DRUG REHAB CENTER.” And the blue ones say pretty much the same: “SAY NO! To SEAFIELD.” Plenty of lawns sport more than one sign.

Sadly, their message is misguided.

Seafield Center, which has operated an inpatient drug rehabilitation center in Westhampton Beach for 32 years, wants to buy the St. Ursula Center and its 8.3 acres from the Ursuline Sisters, whose membership is declining, to open a 76-bed drug treatment center for women. The community has been ferocious in its opposition since news of the plan broke. In addition to the lawn signs, online petitions and parked billboard trucks urge residents to oppose the plan.

But with 360 deaths in Suffolk County from opioids such as heroin and prescription painkillers in 2016, it’s not just the signs opposing a new treatment center that are everywhere. The need for a new treatment center is, too. Suffolk County leads the state in opioid deaths. The Town of Brookhaven leads Suffolk County.

Opponents argue that while they know more treatment beds are needed, the location is inappropriate because it’s in a residential neighborhood. They say the facility would endanger local children and hurt public safety. But studies generally show residential addiction treatment facilities don’t increase crime in their neighborhoods, and don’t tend to draw attention or cause disruptions. That certainly has been the case with Seafield’s Westhampton Beach facility, which often cannot accept new patients because it is full.

Opponents hope to stop Seafield in Blue Point by fighting a variance or change to the property’s residential zoning. However, town officials and civil leaders opposing the plan concede that if the rezoning for the rehab facility is defeated, Seafield can use the land for a sober home, which is less regulated, without any needing a zoning change.

There are addicts in Blue Point, and likely in the neighborhood surrounding St. Ursula, addicts who are suffering and could die without help. Overcoming the opiod epidemic requires action, indeed compassion, from all of us, right in our own neighborhoods. 

Editor's note: This editorial has been corrected to provide the accurate number of deaths in which opioids played a role in Suffolk County in 2016. An incorrect number was given in an earlier version.

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