Eden Laikin


Despite Crackdown, Patient Brokers Continue Exploiting Addicts

Patient brokers lure those seeking treatment for substance abuse to unqualified out-of-state drug rehabs. (Getty Images)

A year after New York State made it illegal to financially benefit from referring patients to addiction treatment programs, so-called “patient brokers” have found new ways of targeting desperate customers.

Several years ago, “body brokers” began targeting support groups directly; they were spotted in 12-step meetings for those addicted to drugs and alcohol. Then they made a big splash on social media, where they could reach tenfold more people who are desperately seeking help.

“What’s dangerous is the patient is not comprehensively assessed and placed in a program most suited to meet their needs,” says Claudia Ragni, a credentialed alcoholism and substance abuse counselor who owns Kenneth Peters Center for Recovery in Syosset and is spearheading a crusade to educate parents and officials on spotting these brokers.

She says that brokers have been paid to bring presentations to Long Island public schools, trolling for customers.

“Not all programs are created equal, and in my 35 years’ experience, each program has its own culture and strengths,” she says. “We need to match patients with the right program for optimum success. When a patient is brokered, they are sent to the highest bidder.”

Critics say that these unprofessional, noncredentialed patient brokers are preying on people at their most vulnerable times — targeting them when they don’t know where to turn for help. Ragni likens body brokering to human trafficking.

“These programs are all out of state, and all out of network, and burn through the patient’s insurance so when they return home, they have no insurance to pay for therapeutic support while they reintegrate into the community where the addiction began,” she says. “Legitimate professional programs do not need brokers to fill beds. So, it stands to reason that substandard programs are the ones brokers send people to.”

Body brokers are paid for each person they send to a facility, and they refer their targets to programs offering the highest kickbacks to the patient brokers, say critics, with little regard for the patient’s specific needs.

The tragic death of 20-year-old Jenna Jacobsen of East Islip occurred after she was lured to a Florida rehab when a patient broker paid her airfare, in late April. She disappeared before entering the facility and was found dead nearby on May 30.

In 2017, the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) spurred a bipartisan patient brokering bill that was passed by the state legislature and became law in October 2018.

“Vulnerable New Yorkers struggling with addiction are being targeted and falsely promised lifesaving treatment services and then are given inadequate and ineffective treatment at outrageous costs,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at the time.

OASAS also issued a directive that requires patient referrals to be delivered by certified and credentialed professionals, who are prohibited from receiving referral fees.

“New York has strong safeguards that protect those seeking help for addiction from being exploited by unscrupulous people seeking to make a profit,” OASAS spokesperson Evan Frost told the Press. “OASAS is committed to ensuring that New Yorkers who need substance use disorder services are able to receive those services without leaving New York State…”

OASAS is actively investigating several individuals and entities they suspect are involved in patient brokering, he adds. New Yorkers can report suspicious activity by calling 1-800 553-5790 or emailing StopTreatmentFraud@oasas.ny.gov.

With those actions, New York became the latest state to focus on the dark world of patient brokering that often involves shadowy addiction recovery facilities in Florida, Arizona, and California.

• Reaches out through support groups or social media.
• Asks for your insurance card first thing.
• Buys an insurance policy for you to enter treatment. (This is illegal in 50 states.)
• Offers you money to go to a particular program. (This is illegal in 50 states.)
• Pays for your travel to go to rehab. (This is illegal in 50 states)
• Has you sign a HIPPA release for them and tells you not to speak to your family.
• Says things like: “I work for many places that have proven success rates.” (There are no proven success rates for rehabs.)
• Offers free sober living if you go to the rehab they choose. (This is illegal in 50 states.)
—Source: Claudia Ragni, Kenneth Peters Center for Recovery

• Go only to an OASAS-licensed treatment provider for a professional assessment of need or referral.
• Call LICADD 516-747-2606 or 631-979-1700 or
• Call the state’s HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY (1-877-846-7369) or by texting HOPENY (Short Code 467369).

Prescription Lucemyra: Addicts’ New Hope

opioid epidemic

Rob was plagued by dependence on the opiate painkiller oxycodone for nearly a decade. Each day, the drug dictated when he ate, slept, and worked. When he couldn’t get the drug his body craved, Rob would buy a substitute opiate on the street to keep from going into debilitating withdrawal. 

He saw no way out.

A few months ago, a friend told Rob about Vivitrol, a once-monthly injection that stops cravings for opiates and helps to heal the brain. But Rob was told he needed to be opiate free for about seven days before receiving the slow-release Vivitrol injection or face precipitated withdrawal. He tried on his own to wean himself off the painkillers, but couldn’t do it for long enough.

Then he met a Great Neck neurologist and addiction specialist who was pioneering a new drug to help those addicted to opiates through the harsh withdrawal in the comfort of their home. It’s called Lucemyra and it’s the first and only FDA-approved non-opioid treatment for relief of multiple symptoms of withdrawal. Lucemyra blocks the release into the bloodstream of norepinephrine, a hormone and neurotransmitter that contributes to the withdrawal symptoms.

“Before Lucemyra, patients had to stop using opiates for more than a week and go through severe withdrawal symptoms prior to their first Vivitrol treatment,” Great Beck neurologist Dr. Russell Surasky says. “This is no longer necessary.”

Dr. Surasky says that using Lucemyra in conjunction with other neurologic-based medications can eliminate opiate withdrawal symptoms and allow patients to be treated with Vivitrol just a few days after their last opiate use.

Rob took five days off from work and stayed in bed for the first two. He’s now been clean and on Vivitrol for six months. He said he hasn’t once thought of using opiates.

The severe unrelenting mental distress and physical discomfort of withdrawal is the biggest roadblock people face when trying to stop taking opiates. Detox facilities usually use opiate-based medications such as Suboxone or methadone to wean patients off opioids such as oxycodone or heroin.

Due to the success that Dr. Surasky has had using Lucemyra — the new detox-at-home medication — he has since been hired as a national speaker for the manufacturer, Kentucky-based U.S. WorldMeds. Withdrawal symptoms include full body aches, stomach cramps, profuse sweating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, heart pounding, muscle spasms and unrelenting insomnia.

Massapequa Park pain management and addiction specialist Dr. Thomas Jan is currently using Lucemyra to slowly wean a patient off the opiate pain reliever oxycodone. The patient, Phil, suffered a severe injury eight years ago while working as a healthcare professional. After several surgeries, Phil was left dependent on 60 to 80 milligrams of oxycodone three times a day to ease his pain. 

Secondary health issues caused by the opiates led him to try to wean himself off oxycodone with Suboxone a few years ago. He was unsuccessful. Dr Jan thought Phil would be a perfect candidate for Lucemyra. In 12 weeks, Phil has decreased his oxycodone use by 20 percent, with no side effects. Phil estimates he’ll be completely off the opiates within a year.

“We now have something that is approved by the FDA, is not a controlled substance, and has a very good safety record — especially in light of its track record [since its 1992 approval in Europe],” says Dr. Jan. “Lofexidine (Lucemyra), in conjunction with other medications we use for comfort, can provide significant relief for those suffering from opioid withdrawal.”

LGBT Network: 25 Years of Pride

LGBT Network CEO David Kilmnick led the group's 25th anniversary gala

Twenty-five years ago, David Kilmnick was a student at Stony Brook University writing his master’s thesis on teaching educators how to provide workshops to create safe spaces for gay or lesbian students.

There was no such term as “LGBTQ.” The legality of gay marriage wasn’t even fathomed. The “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for the military went into effect that year. Nobody was talking about inclusion in schools and tens of thousands lived in secret — afraid to be themselves — for fear of judgment and ridicule, often even violence.

Today, more than 100 schools on Long Island have Gay Parent-Teacher-Student Associations and dozens of those schools have Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) student clubs. LGBT is a household phrase. Gay marriage is legal in every state.

“In 1993, people said you can’t have an LGBT youth organization on Long Island,” says Kilmnick, who founded the nonprofit Long Island LGBT Network in 2008. “Today, we’re one of the biggest in the country.”

Kilmnick’s organization now operates five community centers for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in Woodbury, Patchogue, Bay Shore, the Hamptons, and Long Island City, Queens. Groundbreaking has started on a first-ever affordable housing development for LGBT seniors in Bay Shore.

The nonprofit LGBT Network has made strides in marriage equality and helped with initiatives that have slowed the spread of HIV, worked to combat bullying, develop job and volunteer opportunities, and create safer communities for everyone. It’s helped bring awareness, change, and acceptance in schools and communities not only here, but around the globe, opening doors for thousands of people.

The LGBT Network’s mission statement is that it be a “home and voice for LGBT people, their families, and support systems of Long Island and Queens” and to “help LGBT people to be themselves, stay healthy, and change the world.” 

At its annual gala on October 23, the Network awarded 17 grants to local GSA clubs to support youth-led anti-bullying efforts in schools.

With its advocacy arm, Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth (LIGALY), the LGBT Network “changed the face of Long Island so that LGBT individuals can call Long Island a home no matter where they live, learn, work, play, or pray,” Kilmnick says.

“We’re out there speaking to people all the time,” Kilmnick adds. “We’re opening minds and planting seeds, not just speaking to people who agree.”

In October, the LGBT Network joined with the New York Islanders and the National Hockey League to announce a 2019 Pride Night, as part of the National Coming Out Day Campaign (NCOD). Proceeds from Pride Night ticket sales will support the expansion of the LGBT network’s anti-bullying programs in more than 200 Long Island and New York City schools.

“We have much more work to do,” Kilmnick says. “Many people thought that when marriage equality passed, our work was done. But bias, violence, and safety remain pressing issues for the LGBT community.

“Eighty five percent of LGBT students report daily verbal harassment in schools with one-in-three LGBT students skipping school out of fear of bullying,” he continues. “In the workplace, up to 43 percent of LGBT workers have experienced being discriminated against, denied promotions, or harassed simply for being themselves. Behind each of these statistics is a real person who is someone’s daughter, son, sister, brother, mother, father, family member, friend or coworker.”

LGBT Network Accomplishments

2010: HIV, STI, Pregnancy Prevention initiatives launched

2011: Rallied for Marriage Equality Act

2012: First Long Island Gay Parent-Teacher-Student Association was formed

2012: Launched Living Out, a publication covering LI Life and LGBT culture

2015: First NY MLB Pride Night with the Mets

2017: First LI Pride boat parade

2018: First Queens LGBT youth summit

From left to right: Kilmnick, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, honoree and Nassau University Medical Center Board Chairman George Tsunis, and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

The 12 Step Program: A Proven Path To Recovery

The 12-step program has proven a reliable standby in battling the opioid epidemic. (Shutterstock)

The secret that tens of thousands of people have used to recovery from drug and alcohol addiction since 1935 has been revealed.

The program, which many medical professionals describe as having the greatest impact on addiction, is based on 12 simple steps that anyone can practice at meetings with the help of others like them.

“No one thing is going to [work] for everyone, but I think more often than not, the 12 steps give people a new way to live, without restrictions and covenants,” says Dr. Thomas Jan of Massapequa, who has been treating substance abusers with various addiction medication therapies for 25 years.

His patients are required to also be in a treatment program. He thinks 12-step programs have the highest success rate for long-term sobriety.

“It changes the core problem, which has nothing to do with alcohol or drugs,” he says. “Addiction has to do with thinking. It’s a disease of attitudes and behaviors.”

The premise upon which the 12-step program of Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is based, and which members agree has saved their lives, is this: The therapeutic value of one addict helping another is without parallel.

First and foremost is admitting that you have a problem and that you need help from others. Develop a belief in a power greater than yourself; stay away from people, places and things associated with your using; and make peace with actions you took while actively enslaved by the disease of addiction.

Barry, a social worker, believes a 12-step program gave him a life and recommends the programs to his clients.

“Thank God for the straight talk in 12-step meetings,” he says. “I received the support, understanding, and honesty that I could not get from others who did not understand the illness, even if they loved me. I continue to go now, 27 years later, not because it worked for me in the past, but because it continues to work for me in growing my spirituality and seeing how many of my attitudes and behaviors still stem from the self-destructive aspects of the disease.                                                                                                                       


“My entire task as a helper has been to foster the 12-step approach: Working to find recovery and happiness, as an inside job, will lead to healthy and lasting relationships, circumstances, etc — not the other way around,” he continues.

Others in recovery agreed that 12-step recovery worked for them.

“By doing the 12 steps, I’ve grown and changed the person that I was,” says Kenny, with 30 years in recovery. “I had people around me at the meetings who were going through the same thing that I supported and who supported me and my goals.”

He isn’t alone.

“NA changed my life because I had no life using,” says Susan. “I was poor, no education, no guidance, no morals, no love of life, no love of anyone else’s life either. I walked into my first meeting in July of 1987.

“A couple of members basically told me to learn how to listen instead of yapping and I’m grateful I did,” she continues. “I am now educated, morally and spiritually fit, love my life, love others, have a God, have a family, not too poor, and had a career beyond my wildest dreams. Yes, the 12 steps work.”

Step 1: I can’t.
Step 2: A higher power can.
Step 3: Let that higher power.
Step 4: Look within.
Step 5: Admit wrongs.
Step 6: Ready self for change.
Step 7: Seek a higher power’s  help.
Step 8: Become willing.
Step 9: Make amends.
Step 10: Daily inventory.
Step 11: Pray and meditate.
Step 12: Give it away.
(Condensed and reworded from the original)


Narcotics Anonymous
Nassau 516-827-9500
Suffolk 631-689-6262

Alcoholics Anonymous
Nassau 516-292-3040
Suffolk 631-669-1124

Emerge Nursing and Rehabilitation at Glen Cove Debuts

From left: Jeffrey Spiegel, Emerge administrator; Isaac Laufer, owner; and Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove).

The opening of the new Emerge Nursing and Rehabilitation at Glen Cove is part of a new trend in healthcare. The reflects not only new treatment methods but also makes people feel at home, in modern, comfortable surroundings with amenities that existed only in luxury hotels.

Nursing homes generally conjure up images of rickety stairs, dark hallways and people seated about in wheelchairs gazing at the walls. But at Emerge, those images don’t exist, says facility administrator Jeffrey Spiegel.

“It’s a new facility, new concept, new look, new feel – not to mention brand new amenities,” Spiegel says. “We strive to make people feel at home.”

The 102-bed Emerge, which just underwent a million-dollar renovation, is on the leading edge of state-of-the-art care for people just discharged from hospitals who are not yet able to be at home.

Patients leave a hospital setting for a hotel-like atmosphere where they’re greeted by a concierge, who brings their luggage to their room where they’re able to watch their own 32-inch flat-screen TV. On Wednesdays, they can get their hair done at the in-house full-service salon, and on Fridays, their nails. They can take a dip in the therapy pool, access the internet, or watch a recent DVD movie. Each private patient bathroom has been redecorated with marble floors.

The facility offers live entertainment and social events which may feature wine, cheese, piña coladas, and possibly, a treat at the in-house ice cream parlor, Lickety Split. And on any given day, patients can relax with a coffee and cannoli served by Chef Rocco at a table in a brand-new bakery in a glass-paneled solarium.

A newly hired corporate director of neurological rehabilitation is developing a program at Emerge to offer hope to stroke, traumatic brain and spinal cord injury clients. The program will include enhanced rehab, physiatry and neurology consults, neuropsychological services, and cognitive remediation.  The goal: improving attention, memory, language and speech.

Patient Ellen Weiss of Sea Cliff called the physical therapy staff at Emerge “Triple-A-plus amazing.”  

Emerge Administrator Jeffrey Spiegel

Vivitrol Therapy Gives Those In Recovery A Shot At Life

Members of one drug rehabilitation support group say shots of VivitrolTM help keep them from relapsing. (Photo by Alessandro Guerriero/Shutterstock)

A young man from an affluent Long Island community who was injured in a crash while away at college was prescribed Vicodin for the pain — a story that epitomizes the national opioid epidemic.

“Right away I knew I was in trouble,” the now-30-year-old man, whom we’ll call Chris to protect his identity, said during his first substance abuse support group meeting. “I like this way too much.”

His injuries persisted, and Vicodin no longer eased the pain, so he was then prescribed Percoset. When the doctor thought he shouldn’t need painkillers anymore, he was already hooked. He resorted to buying oxycodone on the street at $30 per pill.

Before long, a dealer told Chris he had something cheaper that would deliver the same high, and he didn’t have to use a needle: heroin. Several ERs, drug rehabs and an arrest later, Chris lost his job, savings, and girlfriend. He moved back in with his parents and hit rock bottom.

An addiction doctor suggested VivitrolTM, a once-a-month slow-release injection of naltrexone. After he got the shot, he found his way to a 12-step recovery meeting, where he met others who had been prescribed the same relapse prevention medication.

The doctor told Chris about the one-of-a-kind Tuesday night Shot at Life support group at St. Bernard’s Parish School in Levittown. Members of the group either are, were, or are considering getting on VivitrolTM.

That was three weeks ago, and Chris said he now feels great. VivitrolTM took away his cravings and stopped the destructive voices in his head, he says. And he’s far from alone.

Dr. Russell Surasky of Great Neck, who is double board-certified in neurology and addiction medicine, calls VivitrolTM one of the most effective treatments for opioid addiction.

“With the patient’s firm commitment to recovery, along with counseling and a strong support system, VivitrolTM is a powerful tool in treating addiction to opioids and alcohol,” Surasky says. “Treatment with medication along with ongoing substance-abuse therapy and support offers patients a lifeline. Our patients have had remarkable success with VivitrolTM. They tell us that they no longer crave or even think about opiates and they feel they have finally broken the chains of addiction.”

VivitrolTM was FDA-approved in 2006 for alcohol and in 2010 for opiates. It costs up to $1,300 per shot and is covered by Medicaid and most private health insurance. See vivitrol.com for a list of providers. About 1,500 patients on LI were treated with VivitrolTM between August 2017 and July 2018, according to the drug’s manufacturer, Alkermes.

Some members of the support group at St. Bernard’s visit regularly to share their experience with VivitrolTM with those who come to learn about it.

“Vivitrol saved my life,” Danny M., who was on the medicine for a year, tells the group. “I’ve struggled for years to get clean off opiates and heroin, and nothing [else] worked for me. I’ve now been clean from [opiates] for 19 months and feel better than I ever have. I also attend self-help meetings, which have played a big part in my recovery … this group is filled with such loving and caring people, who I consider family. I am forever grateful for it.”

For Grace C., VivitrolTM and 12-step meetings are the only combination that stopped her from sticking a needle in her arm. Today, she’s off the shot, eight months clean, and is expecting a baby in December.

“I continue to receive support at the group and am able to share my experience with compassion,” she says. “Sometimes I hear the solution there.”

They all say they found testimonials, understanding, and belonging in the group. The ability to give away what they have gotten is a big part of their recovery. The group was started by Linda Mangano and her husband, former Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, in July 2015. She continues to volunteer to facilitate the group with boundless passion and dedication, even though neither she nor any of her family suffers from addiction.

“There is nothing more important than keeping families whole,” Linda says. “When someone has a substance use disorder, not only are they suffering but so is their family … we all need to join forces to try and keep people alive. No one is immune. No community is exempt … our meetings are a chance to make a difference, educate parents and friends, and help people get treatment.”

7-9 p.m. Tuesdays
St Bernard’s Parish School
3100 Hempstead Tpke., Levittown
2nd floor room #209

Fat Joe, Rick Ross Headlining Long Island Fundraiser Concert To Help Fight Opioid Epidemic

Rappers Fat Joe and Rick Ross are among the headliners for Recover or Die America's Long Island concert to raise money for those in drug rehab.

Long Island native and former bad boy Michael Lohan, father of actress Lindsay Lohan, has joined forces with a music producer to launch a nationwide movement to promote anti-drug abuse messages through music. And he’s bringing it home.

He and an Atlanta-based partner started a nonprofit called Recover or Die America and are organizing a hip-hop concert fundraiser for it in Suffolk County. Proceeds will go toward providing inpatient treatment to uninsured people suffering from substance abuse and addiction.

The event, to be held at the Amphitheater at Bald Hill in Farmingville on Sept. 29, is one leg of a national tour. Recover or Die America (ROD) is aimed at “education and awareness of the devastating effects of opioid and heroin abuse and curbing drug addiction in the United States,” according to its website.

Famed rappers Fat Joe and Rick Ross are headlining the September performance. They’re being joined by Jacquees and 5ive Mics. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster. You might remember Bronx-born Fat Joe’s “Lean Back” and his “What’s Luv?” duet with Ashanti. And Ross’s “Hustlin’” and “Hold me Back.”

Lohan says there will be surprise celebrity appearances and speakers in recovery at the event – before and after the 7 p.m. main performance.

“We’re going to do whatever we can to make sure that if someone wants help – to get clean and sober – it’s available to them,” Lohan says. “Come down the day of the show and get connected. There will be a surprise guest you’ll all love to see.”

His partner, David “Showbiz” Rosario, is a 28-year entertainment management and marketing veteran who says he has witnessed the effects of substance abuse within the entertainment industry. He says he’s promoted performers including Boys II Men, Mariah Carey, Naughty by Nature and Queen Latifah, to name a few.

“Artists’ songs made it cool to be high, glorified it – and I’ve been the person pushing the message,” Rosario says. “Perfect example. The rapper Future had a song called Molly Percoset. I promoted that album. It’s about popping pills, being effed up. And I’m the guy pushing the music. I’m the pusher, the dope man.”

Rosario said realizing he’s part of the problem caused him to think about now becoming part of the solution.

“That means taking that same resume, same drive and same experience and trying to push a positive message,” he says.

According to its website, Recover or Die is on a “mission to save lives, families and the world.”

Since forming in November 2017, the organization has been joined by addiction specialists and representatives from recovery centers across the country. Among them are Tim Ryan, recovery advocate and author of From Dope to Hope and Pastor Jimmy Jack from Teen Challenge.

Lohan said ROD has already become so inundated with calls for help accessing substance abuse treatment that it’s had to open a call center to field the requests. He says first and foremost, ROD wants to help those without health insurance, pregnant women, and veterans get substance abuse treatment. This means everything from detox to rehab to long-term treatment centers, aftercare or sober living, and then on to job training and placement. Applicants would be vetted before a scholarship is granted.

“The music industry has a big influence on kids,” Rosario says. “The music industry has made millions off the suffering of these kids; it’s time they give back. This is a way for the hip-hop music industry to give back. All these artists are drug free. All want to be on board. It’s going to take us bringing the artist and their consumer together in concert.”

Lohan said he chose Long Island because “it’s where I’m from.”

“We know how bad the problem is [here] and it’s affected so many people and families I know,” Lohan says. “We want to bring people together to fight this from the ground up.”

To reach an addiction specialist associated with Recover or Die, 24/7, call 855-222-8524.

Peer Advocates: A New Trend in Recovery

Peer advocates are the newest trend in drug rehab.

Recovery coaches and peer advocates are offering the latest trend in recovery from addiction.

The idea began out of the desperation of a substance abuse recovery community in Connecticut nearly 10 years ago. Members — those in recovery and those affected by them — hoped that with some formal training, they could learn to better utilize their personal experiences and strengths to help others stop relapsing and sustain recovery.

The Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR) may have led the charge for the movement that’s spread across the country and has been recognized by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), but it was a Baldwin agency that was among the first to offer the training on Long Island.

“I’m helping you be more conscious of the way in which we help individuals,” Anthony Bryant, executive director of Great Escape Substance Abuse Training and Information in Baldwin, told attendees of a five-week Recovery Coach class he taught in Bohemia last month.

In recovery from substance addiction for 24 years, Bryant took the curriculum for Recovery Coach and ran with it. Great Escape offers the CCAR’s 30 educational hours needed to begin the process of becoming either a state-certified Addiction Recovery Coach or Recovery Peer Advocate. Trainees would then need an additional 30 hours of education to become a recovery coach or 15 more hours for the Peer Advocate, which can also be obtained at Great Escape and consists of ethics, peer supervision, medication assisted therapy, etc.

The center has trained about 125 people over the past three years. Great Escape’s primary program is the 350-hour Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor course, which has been offered since the facility opened on Grand Avenue in 2012.

Recovery Coaches and Peer Advocates are not clinically based or driven. The designed to bridge the gap between clinical treatment and long-term recovery. They’re training is based on these ideals: Meet people where they’re at; there are multiple pathways to recovery; you are in recovery when you say you are; focus on the coachee’s recovery potential, not their pathology, to elevate recovery outcomes.

According to OASAS, the recovery coach serves as an “accountability partner to help the person sustain his/her recovery.” The coach helps the person access systems needed to support recovery such as benefits and health care. and promotes recovery by removing barriers and obstacles.

State-licensed agencies that receive Medicaid can now be reimbursed for peer support services. As a result, it’s become a career path for some, while it remains a lay life skill for others. And it’s not just for those addicted to drugs.

“We’re all recovering from something,” Bryant says.

Most of Bryant’s students said they were there to learn to better help friends or family members. Kameryn Jackson, 18, of West Babylon, is in recovery from a severe trauma suffered when she was a child. Her older brother was shot and killed on her ninth birthday. She said she now feels like she’s at a place where she can support peers trying to get through a difficult situation.

“I feel like we have a lot of teens going through things that they don’t really feel comfortable telling adults,” Kameryn says. “I want them to be able to talk to me because I’m their age. I know things from their perspective.”

Bryant tells the students that to help someone you should increase your knowledge of resources to better refer them so their needs can be met.

“Know where they’re located, know you’re not putting people in harm’s way,” he says. “If they don’t have means to travel, know the public transportation system.’’

“It’s about helping someone identify their recovery capital, discover their internal and external motivators,” he continues. “Today you’re learning from me. I’m not the person I was 24 years ago. Recovery works.”

For more information visit greatescapeinc.org or call 516-442-1967.

Quitting Smoking Ups Drug Rehab Success, Study Shows

Ryan H. of West Babylon started smoking cigarettes at the age of 13. Alcohol soon followed, then marijuana and harder drugs. He went to his first substance abuse treatment facility at age 17.

Over the next nine years, he tried all kinds of ways to stop using drugs. He moved, joined the military, tried different religions. At age 26, when his pain got great enough, he managed to finally stop using and has been clean for the last three years. It was only once he was abstinent from drugs for a little while that he realized his cigarette smoking was as strong and debilitating an addiction as any other he battled.

“When I couldn’t get cigarettes because I couldn’t afford them, I’d be flipping couch cushions to try and find enough change to buy some or wondering what I could sell to get a few dollars,” he says. “When I was running low, I’d get that same feeling of panic as I did when I was using drugs.”

He finally quit smoking cold turkey after three weeks of what he calls painful withdrawal.

“I think if I would have quit smoking sooner, I would have woken up sooner to the fact that I was an addict,” he adds. “If you’ve been unable to stay clean and you’re still smoking, it could definitely be a factor.”

There is research that concurs. Experts say tobacco dependence is a chronic addictive disease. A 2017 study by researchers at Columbia University’s School of Public Health and the City University of New York found that people recovering from illicit drug abuse are twice as likely to be successful if they don’t smoke cigarettes. The study was supported
by the National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Drug Abuse and appears online in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

The researchers studied data from 34,653 adults enrolled in the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, but only those with a history of illicit substance use disorders according to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) criteria were included in the final sample.

Researchers have long explored the connection between tobacco dependence and illicit drug addiction, citing as one possible reason that nicotine, alcohol, and drugs of abuse all stimulate overlapping pathways in the brain that are involved in addictive behaviors.

DSM-V diagnoses Tobacco Use Disorder and states that tobacco products contain nicotine, an ingredient that can lead to addiction. As with other drugs, it produces dependence and withdrawal symptoms upon cessation.

Statistics show that between 75 percent and 98 percent of people with Substance Use Disorder also use tobacco, compared to only about 17 percent of U.S. adults in general.

Also last year, Eric MacLaren, who has a Ph.D. in Pharmacology and is a freelance medical writer in the field of drug abuse, published these findings on drugabuse.com:

• Patients in drug treatment who voluntarily quit have more total days abstinent from drugs and alcohol one year later than those who never stopped smoking.
• 74 percent of smokers who quit during treatment remained abstinent from alcohol and drugs after five years, compared to 50 percent who did not quit smoking.
• Patients who quit smoking in their first year of recovery are more likely to be abstinent from alcohol than smokers (53 percent vs. 40 percent) and drugs (82 percent vs. 72 percent) after nine years.

Bettina Bove, a Long Island-based licensed clinical social worker, says the studies sound logical.

“If an addicted person stops using all addicting chemicals then it would stop that rebound effect and increase the odds of stable abstinence,” she says. “Addiction is inherent in a person, not in the specific substance used … Any mood or mind-altering substance can be substituted and trigger the addictive nature and a relapse.”

Critics of the study say asking patients to quit cigarette smoking while they try to stop using drugs is “too difficult,” or will hurt patients’ chances of successfully getting sober. Research fails to bear that out. But Eddie F. of Massapequa says it’s true for him.

“If I had to give up cigarettes when I got clean, I’m not sure if I would be here now,” he says. “It took me eight more years of smoking. And I just celebrated 22 years clean.”

The New York State Quitline, a free service to help residents stop using tobacco, can be reached at 1-866-NY QUITS (697-8487) or at nysmokefree.com.

Troubles Mount for Hempstead School District

Randy Stith

Carmen Ayala and Patricia Spleen, elected May 15 to the embattled Hempstead School Board, are no strangers to its majority, backed by Hempstead for Hempstead, according to campaign literature and sources close to the group.

The self-proclaimed founder of Hempstead For Hempstead is former Hempstead school Trustee Thomas Parsley, a registered sex offender. Parsley, 40, was removed from the school board in 2004 after being convicted of grand larceny for stealing a principal’s ATM card and withdrawing $500. In 2010, Parsley was sentenced to a year in jail for sexual misconduct with a 15-year-old boy, records show. Parsley couldn’t be reached for comment.

Hempstead for Hempstead was represented by a lobbying group called Gotham Government Relations & Communications, whose other clients include President Donald Trump. Gotham’s CEO is Brad Gerstman, of the Gerstman, Schwartz & Malito law firm. At a Feb. 1, 2018 Hempstead School Board meeting, the members of the majority voted to retain the Gerstman law firm to investigate suspended school superintendent Shimon Waronker and commence legal action against a program he brought into the district. In April, Gotham Government Relations was approved by the board to serve as the District’s $5,000-per-month public relations firm, according to a Gotham staffer.

“We cut ties with Hempstead for Hempstead when we were appointed as the public relations firm for the school district,” Gerstman says, noting that there was no overlap or conflict. “And we didn’t continue to investigate or anything related to law firm activities.”

“What they need from us at this period of time is to be their mouthpiece,” Gerstman adds. “I feel good about our small part in trying to clean it up and right the wrongs that may have occurred there.”

The previous board candidate backed by Hempstead for Hempstead was Randy Stith, who was back June 1 before a judge to answer for his latest criminal charges: A 13 count indictment for allegedly stealing money from the Hempstead Fire Department and forging a letter of recommendation from the department to become a Hempstead police officer. Stith, 27, pleaded not guilty and faces up to seven years in prison.

An earlier criminal charge initially disqualified Stith from civil service. To persuade Nassau’s Civil Service Commission to rescind the disqualification, he allegedly filed a forged letter of recommendation purporting to be signed by another member of Hempstead’s Southside Hose 2 fire company, vouching for his character.

The earlier crime was in 2010, when Stith was 19 years old. He was arrested for hitting a woman in the head with a bottle of bleach and splashing the chemical into her eyes during a dispute over clothes at a Hempstead Laundromat. He was charged with misdemeanor assault and possession of the bottle of bleach as a weapon. He pled guilty to a noncriminal harassment violation, served five days in jail, and paid $320 in fines and court fees.

On April 25, hours before Stith turned himself in for the latest charges, the Hempstead School District released a statement:

“Hempstead School Board Member Randy Stith is someone who has given years to public service and deserves the benefit of the doubt. However, these are very serious allegations and if the charges are proven true, then the school district and school board will have to address it immediately.”

Stith could not be reached for comment. He is accused of stealing more than $6,500 from the Hempstead Fire Department while he served as treasurer from 2015 to 2018. Stith allegedly made 12 unauthorized cash withdrawals from the bank account of Southside Hose 2 and then falsified documents to cover it up. He was terminated from the department in January.

Based on the recommendation he allegedly falsified, Stith became a Hempstead village police officer last year. At his swearing in, his godfather, Hempstead Village Mayor Don Ryan, said, “The village is confident that he will prove to be a fine addition to the village police force.”

Last month, Mayor Ryan, village and school board trustee LaMont Johnson and the rest of the village Board voted not to terminate Probationary Officer Stith, opting instead to leave him on paid administrative leave as the criminal case winds through the legal system. Later, Ryan said he meant to recuse himself from the vote.
Johnson did not recuse himself. The mayor’s assistant, school trustee David Gates, could not be reached for comment.