Supporters of a multi-million dollar drug research and treatment facility being proposed for private property at the Enterprise Park at Calverton spoke in support of the project before the Riverhead Board of Zoning Appeals Thursday night.
The group of researchers, doctors, and scientists that attended the meeting said the center offers a unique opportunity to not only treat those suffering from drug or alcohol addiction, but also develop more effective methods of treatment faster.
Among those supporters was Steven Dewey, who said he’s studied the science of addiction for more than three decades.
“What you have before you is kind of a lifelong dream,” Mr. Dewey said. “If I could design a center, after 30 years of experience, I’d design a center just like this.”
The Calverton Addiction Research Education: New York, or CARE: NY, facility would feature a 34-acre campus and include 41,000 square feet of housing, 20,000 square feet of offices and 15,000 square feet of indoor recreation like a gymnasium and a pool, project officials said.
It’s proposed for property currently owned by Jan Burman, just north of River Road and just west of Connecticut Avenue.
The facility would have a maximum of 130 beds for volunteers looking to get treatment, said attorney Vincent Messina of Central Islip, who spoke on behalf of the center’s founders. Patients would stay at the facility for up to 120 days and would pay for treatment privately, though Mr. Messina said new federal regulations may allow insurance to cover the costs.
Mr. Messina assured the board that the center would not be part of the criminal justice system, saying the goal of the facility is to research and make breakthroughs in the treatment of addiction — not serve as a way for convicts to get reduced sentences.
The facility would cost roughly $10 million to build, and Mr. Messina told the board the project was expected to lose money in its first few years. He said the facility would not use the nonprofit status of any companies operating in the center to get tax breaks.
Mr. Messina promised that if a nonprofit were required by law to get a tax exemption, the owners of the center would pay the difference in price to ensure that no tax revenues are lost.
The attorney told the board that 64 percent of the facility was already covered under “as of right” use in the zoning code.
The center would need zoning exemptions made mainly for the housing component of the research facility.
Mr. Dewey told the board that more children and young adults will die on Long Island this year from opiate abuse than from alcohol abuse.
ZBA chairman Fred McLaughlin acknowledged the need for more addiction treatment.
“The opiates are just out of control,” he said.
Andrew Drazan, the facility’s founder and CEO, told the board there is “so much more to learn” in the field of addiction treatment.
Mr. Drazan said he was inspired to build the facility by his own experiences at a young age; his mother died due to addiction when he was a child, he previously told the News-Review.
He told the board that there has been a shift in the approach to addiction and addiction treatment.
“[This is] no longer looked at as moral failing,” he said. “It’s considered a disease and it’s going to be treated as such.”
The ZBA adjourned the center’s request to the Dec. 12 meeting.