Long-term care facility for young adults planned for Riverhead

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | This vacant farmhouse could soon be remade into a group home for non-elderly adults in need of long-term medical care.

There are few services on Long Island for young people in need of constant medical care. Now, some families that have found this out the hard way are taking matters into their own hands.

More than a dozen people met for the first time in Medford Thursday night to discuss how to raise donations and awareness for “Brendan’s House,” a planned 12-bed long-term care home on Sound Avenue in Riverhead for those with traumatic brain injuries or other cognitive and physical disabilities.

The three-structure property once served as a home for single mothers before it was donated to an outpatient rehab center called New Beginnings. As envisioned, the facility would be staffed around the clock with nurses and other aides for its residents.

“There are very few resources out there for [young people who need long-term care],” said Kate DiMeglio, vice president of New Beginnings, which offers long-term care services for patients dealing with traumatic brain injuries and their families. “I’ve been fighting this for 13 years; we’re at the bottom of the barrel.”

Brendan’s House would be run by two Long Island nonprofits, New Beginnings of Medford and Family Residences & Essential Enterprises of Old Bethpage. Costs for care would be covered under the patient’s insurance, said New Beginnings’ founder, Allyson Scerri.

Since New Beginnings opened in April 2011, the center has served more than 150 people who would otherwise have no other place to turn to for support, said Ms. Scerri, a Remsenburg native who founded the center after her father suffered a severe brain injury in a motorcycle accident and couldn’t get the care he needed on Long Island.

“It’s almost like we’re the land of misfits,” she said, adding that the organization also helps veterans who return home with post-traumatic stress disorder or physical injuries. “We are a family here … We’re the last resort.”

The home is expected to cost $200,000, Ms. Scerri said, though the group has already received donations from Home Depot and pro bono services from an attorney and grant writer. Architect Roger Smith of BBS Architecture, who designed the Long Island Aquarium and the new Hyatt Place East End hotel, has donated his time to help with the renovation.

During this week’s meeting at the New Beginnings rehab center, a supporter also announced that Chrisnic Construction, a contracting group in Bellmore, would have each of its subcontractors donate a day of labor to get the project moving.

But center officials are looking for more donations or volunteers to help clean out the house, which they say needs a redesign to accommodate handicapped patients. The building itself is structurally sound.

Brendan’s House was named in honor of Brendan Aykroyd, a 25-year-old Blue Point man who was assaulted in 2009 and suffered a brain injury.

Mr. Aykroyd joined New Beginnings to continue his rehabilitation in last year, but died in his sleep in June. Around that time, New Beginnings began working on plans for the group home and decided to name it after Brendan after speaking his parents.

“My husband and I are eternally grateful that you are loving our son as you have,” Brendan’s mother, Sandi Aykroyd, told those in attendance Thursday night. “We are just so in awe of this project, that his name will live on.”

Long-term care for non-elderly, medically dependent people remains an issue for many Long Island families. According to a Jan. 12 Riverhead News-Review report, few local options exist for children like Michael Hubbard, a Riverhead teenager who was severely burned in a gel-candle accident last May. Michael and his mother, Nancy Reyer, stay off the island as Michael receives treatement at Blythedale Children’s Hospital in Westchester County.

Before Ms. Reyer moved upstate to be closer to Michael, she had attended support groups at New Beginnings. The Medford facility will soon also begin rehabilitation treatment for Marialena Trinca, the 4-year-old girl who was seriously injured in a Manorville car crash that claimed the lives of her brother Jason, 10, and her mother, Keri, in October.

Under the current plan, Brendan’s House residents would live at the Riverhead group home and spend most days at New Beginnings for treatment. Family Residences & Essential Enterprises would staff the home, which would cater to non-elderly patients who need constant care but crave independence.
While organizers would like to have Brendan’s House up and running as soon as possible, project manager and executive vice president Steve Scerri said he wants to “do it right” and not rush the renovations. They have already secured the proper zoning permits for Brendan’s House from Riverhead Town and are waiting for Mr. Smith, the architect, to provide a list of materials that need to be donated.

Ms. Scerri expects to have Brendan’s House open within a year, and hopes to open more homes for long-term care in the future.

“We started with an empty building [in Medford] and the town saying, ‘You’re crazy,’” she said. “Today all of our rooms were filled.”

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