$850K in federal funds to train drug counselors at SCCC

Baggies of Hollywood-branded heroin seized by the East End Drugs Task Force during an investigation into a Riverhead drug ring. (Credit: Paul Squire file)
Baggies of Hollywood-branded heroin seized by the East End Drugs Task Force during an investigation into a Riverhead drug ring. (Credit: Paul Squire file)

Tuition and books will be cheaper over the next three years at Suffolk County Community College for students looking to study drug and alcohol counseling.

SCCC recently received nearly $850,000 from the federal government to go toward its Chemical Dependence Counseling program, which “prepares students for employment or advancement in the field of chemical dependency counseling.”

The grant funding will go toward 120 students each year who are enrolled in the program, which is taught at SCCC’s Brentwood campus. The college was one of 18 programs awarded the grant nationwide, and the only program in New York State to receive the aid, which comes through the Department of Health and Human Services.

“This grant comes to us at a time when we’ve seen a record number of heroin deaths on Long Island and drug abuse, sadly, continues to rise,” said SCCC president Dr. Shaun L. McKay. “This federal award will allow Suffolk County Community College to train and certify compassionate professionals who will help Long Islanders fight the scourge of chemical and drug dependency.”

Heroin addiction has taken center stage on Long Island — and even New York State — over the past year. State leaders passed a series of bills over the summer aimed at tackling the “public health crisis,” as Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the problem.

The 11 bills were designed with four particular goals in mind: assisting enforcement against illegal trafficking of such drugs, helping with emergency response in overdose situations, improving treatment options for individuals suffering from heroin and opioid addiction through insurance reforms, and creating public awareness campaigns with reach to school-age children, adults and even prescribers, who are the legal gatekeepers to opioid drugs.

SCCC’s grant fits into the third goal.

The CDC program trains students to become a Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor Trainee, preparing them to take the exam required to ultimately become a fully-credentialed counselor in New York State.

Locally, East End law enforcement officers — often the first to arrive at the scene of a heroin overdose — are now equipped with Narcan, a life saving drug which is given to individuals who have a heroin overdose.

According to data released at the beginning of the year by Dr. Michael Lehrer, chief toxicologist with the ME’s office, heroin-related deaths in Suffolk County had increased from 28 in 2010 to 64 in 2011 and 83 in 2012.

The $847,059 coming to the program will expand the college’s program by over 70 percent.

In addition to helping with tuition and book costs, career development and job placement services are going to be expanded as well, according to the college.