Difficult diagnosis: Rehab center will open in Coney regardless of community board’s overwhelming opposition, director says

Tough pill to swallow: Coney Island civic leaders don’t want new drug-treatment center in nabe
Site in question: Members of Coney Island’s Community Board 13 Health Committee are hoping city and state leaders revoke permits for LSA Recovery, a proposed outpatient treatment center on Stillwell Avenue between Mermaid and Neptune avenues.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

Coney Island civic leaders overwhelmingly voted against opening a new outpatient rehab center in the neighborhood, but leaders of the firm behind the facility will forge ahead with their plans regardless, claiming not doing so would be a disservice to the area.

“I think that if we don’t open, we will fail Coney Island,” said Ertuania Jorge, the program director for LSA Recovery.

Community Board 13’s full board on Feb. 27 voted 25–1 against issuing a formal letter of support for the in-the-works LSA Recovery Center, which is set to occupy two floors of a new Stillwell Avenue building between Mermaid and Neptune avenues, the board’s District Manager Eddie Mark said.

But the vote — which came weeks after members of CB13’s Health Committee also voted not to pen a supportive letter — is purely advisory, and officials with the state’s office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse, and the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, already approved permits for rehab-center bigwigs to open the spot, according to Jorge, who requested the letter in an attempt to generate community backing for the scheme.

CB13 Health Committee members previously demanded city and state officials rescind their approvals for the center when they voted not to support it in writing, claiming Coney’s two existing outpatient facilities — Coney Island Hospital’s Ida G. Israel Community Health Center, and the Merryland Health Center on Mermaid Avenue at W. 17th St. — already adequately serve community members, and claiming that the new center would bring undesirable characters to the neighborhood.

And Jorge claimed the committee’s earlier opposition poisoned the opinions of other board members, whom she alleged cast their votes against supporting the center due to a preconceived bias — not because they fully weighed the pros and cons of the facility and its offerings.

“They clearly voted in favor of the Health Committee, and I believe they were not aware of who we were, and what they were voting on,” she said. “It’s all about stigma.”

LSA Recovery Center’s Coney outpost will offer the same services provided by the firm’s existing location in Midwood, where about 150 clients spend an average of between six months and a year receiving regular treatment, including counseling sessions, medication-assisted treatment, and substance-abuse education, according to Jorge, who said that LSA does not, and would not, use the controversial opiate methadone to wean patients off of other addictive drugs.

And statistics prove the area needs another outpatient rehab center, Jorge alleged. In 2017, an average of 22.3 fatal overdoses occurred among every 100,000 residents of Coney Island, Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach, and Sheepshead Bay combined — a higher-than-average rate compared to the citywide statistic of 21.2 deaths among every 100,000 residents, according to city data.

The center could open in as soon as a few weeks, according to Jorge, who said she and her colleagues will continue to engage with the community to keep locals informed of its work and answer any questions that arise about its operations.

“I understand their concerns and the stigma that we all have to work with,” she said. “We will prove to the community that we will be part of the community.”

Neither CB13’s chairman nor members of its Health Committee could be reached by press time.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@schnepsmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.

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