Joined by elected leaders, and health and human services officials from throughout the region, Northwell Health and The Engel Burman Group broke ground today on “Wellbridge” – a residential treatment and research center for those struggling with opioid and other substance use disorders.
The 80-bed facility, being built at a cost of $95 million on a 40-acre campus in the Town of Riverhead hamlet of Calverton, will be one of the nation’s first residential addiction treatment and research center connected to a major health system. Construction is scheduled for completion in late 2019.
Wellbridge will serve as a learning laboratory that provides traditional and alternative treatments, giving addiction specialists and researchers the ability to assess the short- and long-term progress of clients, identify clues to improve therapies and prevent relapse, and study the neurobiological effects of addiction through brain imaging and other neuroscience investigational methods.
“Having patients down the hall from researchers is very rare in addiction treatment centers, but we know it’s absolutely necessary to study and properly treat the disease,” said Jonathan Morgenstern, PhD, assistant vice president of substance abuse services at Northwell Health, who will lead a team of about 50 clinicians and researchers, part of a total staff of 90 who will be working at Wellbridge.
“We’re in the midst of an opioid epidemic of chilling proportions,” said Andrew Drazan, CEO of Wellbridge. “The statistics speak for themselves. Over 500 Long Islanders died in 2017 from opioids. There is not a single one of us who does not know some family that has been harmed by this scourge. This facility will help fill a major gap in substance abuse treatment in our community.”
While based on Long Island, Mr. Drazan said he expects the facility will draw patients from throughout the region and the country, given the national reputation of its staff and the clinical and research capabilities of the new center.
Northwell will incorporate clinical and academic resources from the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, and Zucker Hillside Hospital and South Oaks Hospital, two Northwell-run psychiatric facilities that specialize in substance abuse services.
During today’s groundbreaking ceremony, recovering substance user Douglas Albert, 60, of Lindenhurst, NY, shared his story of being alcohol and drug free for 13 years until 2007, when a doctor prescribed painkillers for a work-related knee injury. What followed was an addiction to opiates and then later a relapse with alcohol.
“Three pills became nine, then 12 and the next thing you know my 30-day prescription lasted me five days.
So what do I do? I gotta go buy them on the street and I spent a fortune. All my money – everything went to that addiction,” said Mr. Albert, who is now two years sober thanks to care he received at South Oaks Hospital in Amityville, NY.
The collaboration by Northwell and Engel Burman will also include the creation of four outpatient facilities in leased facilities located in Nassau, Suffolk, Manhattan and Westchester. Also being developed is a digital platform that will allow remote access to a recovery coach and counselor, and an app for patients to access resources when needed.
Among other attendees at today’s groundbreaking were Engel Burman President Jan Burman, Northwell Health President & CEO Michael Dowling, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Suffolk County District Attorney, Tim Sini, US Rep. Lee Zeldin and Riverhead Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith.
About Engel Burman
The Engel Burman Group is a leading real estate developer, based on Long Island, with properties throughout the tri-state area. Engel Burman's portfolio is impressive, with commercial, residential, industrial, and retail properties built, owned, developed, and managed by the company. It includes some of the area’s most known and respected development brands, perhaps most notably, The Bristal Assisted Living communities & The Seasons Active Adult communities. The Engel Burman Group continues to anticipate, adapt, and advance - redefining the industry.
About Northwell Health
Northwell Health is New York State’s largest health care provider and private employer, with 23 hospitals, 665 outpatient facilities and more than 18,500 affiliated physicians. We care for over two million people annually in the New York metro area and beyond, thanks to philanthropic support from our communities. Our 66,000 employees – 16,000-plus nurses and 4,000 employed doctors, including members of Northwell Health Physician Partners – are working to change health care for the better. We’re making breakthroughs in medicine at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research. We're training the next generation of medical professionals at the visionary Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell and the Hofstra Northwell School of Graduate Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies. For information on our more than 100 medical specialties, visit northwell.edu.