City and state leaders must revoke their approvals for a new outpatient substance-abuse recovery center in Coney Island, and instead help area addicts by shuttering booze vendors in the neighborhood, according to a local who panned the center at a recent community board meeting.
“I’m not really for it,” said Jeff Sanoff. “Let’s get rid of liquor stores.”
Sanoff and fellow Coney Islanders voiced their concerns about the LSA Recovery facility during a Feb. 4 meeting of Community Board 13’s Health Committee, where other locals argued the center could bring undesirable characters to the neighborhood.
“It’s not a good attraction,” said CB13 member Pat Brown.
Six Health Committee members unanimously voted against the panel issuing a letter of support for the center — a formal missive LSA Recovery program director Ertuania Jorge requested to show community backing for the facility, which the state office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse and the city office of Mental Health and Hygiene already approved applications for.
Jorge, however, still hopes CB13’s full board will ultimately vote in favor of issuing the letter at its Feb. 27 general meeting, because she wants to work in tandem with the community — where the center’s services are urgently needed, she said.
“I’m very surprised [that they rejected it], with the opioid epidemic and everything that’s going on, and the services we’re going to provide,” she said.
In 2017, 1,487 city residents died from unintentional drug overdoses — and Coney Island, together with Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach, and Sheepshead Bay, racked up higher-than-average overdose deaths that year, with an average of 22.3 fatal incidents occurring among every 100,000 residents of those neighborhoods, compared to an average of 21.2 deaths among every 100,000 residents of other neighborhoods citywide, statistics show.
LSA Recovery’s Coney center is slated to fill two floors of an eight-story building on Stillwell Avenue between Mermaid and Neptune avenues.
It would be similar to the firm’s existing Midwood outpost, which currently employs about 20 staffers and serves about 150 clients, who spend an average of between six months and a year receiving regular treatment at the facility, including counseling sessions, medication-assisted treatment, and substance-abuse education, according to Jorge.
And the center would not use the controversial opiate methadone to wean patients off of other addictive drugs, she said.
“This is the least intensive substance abuse program there is,” she said.
But the committee members questioned the need for LSA to open another location so close to its Midwood site — especially in Coney, where locals can already seek treatment at two existing outpatient centers, Coney Island Hospital’s Ida G. Israel Community Health Center, and the Merryland Health Center on Mermaid Avenue at W. 17th Street.
“What makes you different from the facilities that are in the neighborhood?” asked CB13 Health Committee chairman Alex Chadaev.
Jorge explained the center could serve even more residents because its counselors speak seven languages, including Russian, Hebrew, Ukrainian, and Farsi. But the committee members said cultural competency wasn’t good enough, and demanded she hand over data supporting the necessity of another recovery center in the neighborhood — which she allegedly promised to provide at a previous meeting with the board, according to its chairwoman.
“I don’t know why she has to come in here when we have the same facility that people in the neighborhood are [already] using,” said JoAnn Weiss. “She still hasn’t given us the numbers that we asked for at the last meeting, the numbers that prove that this is needed in the neighborhood.”
Weiss also raised concerns about security at the new facility, especially if it will serve people from beyond Coney Island.
“I’m worried about security, you have to have some sort of security there because you never know what’s going to happen,” she said. “Are they local patients or are you people bringing people in from the outside?”
The center would prioritize catering to Coney Islanders, but treat patients from across the city if necessary, according to Jorge, who said there is no security plan currently in place because the Midwood center has operated without incident since it opened 10 years ago.
And she promised to bring data supporting the need for the center to the board’s upcoming general meeting at the New York Aquarium’s Education Hall, claiming she misunderstood the board’s previous request for that information.