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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.”

THE 12 STEPS
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)

24/7 HELPLINE NUMBERS

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.”

SHOT AT LIFE VIVITROL EDUCATION & SUPPORT GROUP
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.

Retracing The Road To Ruin Amid Opoid Crisis

We asked three of the busiest addiction doctors in Nassau County how they thought we, as a society, got here, to the deadliest health crisis in American history.

Agreed upon is that both physicians and Big Pharma played a role. Also clear is that two historical happenings were the driving force.

In 1996, the American Pain Society said pain is the “5th vital sign” — equally as important as the patient’s pulse, even though there is no way to measure its severity. In 2001, The Joint Commission, which certifies health care organizations in the US, said pain was being undertreated.

It’s message to doctors and hospitals: If a patient is in pain, you can be sanctioned. Some clinicians, the commission said, “have inaccurate and exaggerated concerns about addiction.”

Around the same time, Purdue Pharma reformulated OxyContin and began aggressively marketing it to doctors, saying there was no evidence that those who took it would become addicted. Sales soared. The company made billions.

PAINKILLER PROLIFERATION

Dr. Russell Surasky, a Great Neck neurologist who is board certified in addiction medicine, said the Joint Commission “couldn’t have been more wrong.”

“What Purdue realized was that if they could get doctors to prescribe opiates not just for cancer-related pain but rather for everyday aches and pains, then their profits would skyrocket,” Surasky says. “They did this by creating a massive fraudulent campaign in which they downplayed the addiction risk of OxyContin.”

“OxyContin then became the most profitable pain medication ever made,” he continues. “Purdue made $32 billion from this one drug. Addiction rates soared.”

Dr. Thomas Jan of Massapequa is board certified in physical medicineand subspecialty certified in pain and addiction medicine. He traces the origins of the epidemic to the mid-1980s when an expert on palliative care reported that people on chronic opioid therapy were not more likely to develop addiction. Jan feels that everybody who takes an opioid is at an increased risk of developing addiction.

“Stating that being on chronic opioid therapy does not bring increased risk of addiction, is like saying that one can stand in the middle of a highway and not be at an increased risk of getting hit by a car,” Jan says.

“When health practitioners acknowledge there is a danger, then they can properly monitor and protect the patient,” he says. “The excuse that a doctor is doing the wrong thing for the right reason no longer holds weight.”

POINT OF NO RETURN

Dr. Stuart Wasser of Rockville Centre, a certified addiction specialist, says the problem stems from primary care doctors not knowing how to treat chronic pain.

“In a way, they approached it as acute pain lasting a long time, rather than a different physiology — one almost identical to that of chronic addiction,” he says. “They did not know that opioids worsen chronic pain and other symptoms such as depression. So initial opioid use resulted in more and more opioid use.

“By the time we learned what we were dealing with, most doctors
were scared out of the field, leaving patients with few knowledgeable, responsible professionals to help them,” he adds, “and the DEA was more interested in punishing doctors than retraining them.”

Dr. Edmond Hakimi, an executive board member of Long Island Recovery Association, says that the above-mentioned philosophies oversaturated our communities with opioid pain medications.

“A few years ago, when we realized that this had become a problem, some states started to tighten down on opioid prescribing and doctor shopping,” he says. “This caused those already dependent or addicted to opioids to turn to what was cheap and readily available: Heroin.”

Dr. Surasky believes there is hope.

He says: “We have new, phenomenal treatments, which along with counseling, can help reverse the brain changes that addiction causes and save lives.”

DRUG REHAB RESOURCES

Long Island Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence
1025 Old Country Rd Suite 221, Westbury. 516-747-2606, licadd.org.

Nassau University Medical Center
2201 Hempstead Tpke., East Meadow. Detox: 516-572-6394. Rehab: 516-572-9402.

Pheonix House
Multiple locations. 1-844-353-5798, phoenixhouse.org.

South Oaks Hospital
400 Sunrise Hwy, Amityville, 631-608-5610, south-oaks.com

Hempstead Eyes Replacing Aging ‘Temporary’ Classrooms

Hempstead has been using the same temporary trailers as classrooms for two decades.

The low-performing Hempstead School District is banking on one chance to finally get hundreds of its elementary school students out of “temporary” trailers they’ve been in for more than 20 years, and into real classrooms. But it will mean that homeowners must agree to pay between $80-$239 more in property taxes annually for a few years.

Approval by voters of a $46.8 million bond on May 15 would allow the district to begin a three-year capital project to demolish and replace the shuttered Marguerite G. Rhodes Elementary School. The project would open up real classrooms to between 700 and 750 students in the 2021 school year – eliminating about half the 55 portable classrooms and easing some of the overcrowded conditions in the three existing elementary schools, district officials said.

Acting School Superintendent Regina Armstrong calls the approval of the bond “essential” to changing the educational atmosphere for children in a district that last year graduated about 36.7 percent of its senior class.

“It’s not the learning environment the school district is okay with,” Armstrong says through a district spokeswoman. “We want to provide the most optimal learning environment for our students … the bond is essential to our getting the children out of the portable classrooms that were never intended to be here this long. It’s also crucial to helping alleviate the overcrowding (in the other elementary schools) and to stop the eyesore in the village.”

The school district owns about half the trailers that provide the classrooms for up to 1,600 Hempstead elementary students, Armstrong says. The other portable units are leased by the district at a cost of $1.5 million a year.

The district’s enrollment of 7,577 in the 2017-18 school year is expected to increase dramatically by 1,520 students to a total of 9,097 students in 2025. The growth is due to an influx of immigrants, officials say. Hempstead School officials expect about $28.7 million in state aid toward the $46.8 million Rhodes School capital project – $1.4 million
of which will go toward getting rid of half the modular units. That would leave a taxpayer-funded balance of $16 million, meaning a 1.59 percent increase to homeowners per year.

The district’s campaign for passage of the bond vote is: “A successful May 2018 vote means a September 2021 occupancy.”

Armstrong says that to have a better chance of the bond vote passing, her goal was to keep the property tax levy low for the proposed 2018-19 school budget. The proposed $215 million budget for the upcoming year carries a zero-percent increase for taxpayers. The budget, bond and two of the school board seats will all be voted on, on the same ballot on May 15.

The modular classrooms date back to an even more troubling time in the district’s history. In 2005, a New York State Comptroller’s audit found that Hempstead School District spent $2.3 million to install and rent portable classrooms. This was part of $5.1 million in spending between 2002 and 2004 that the audit called “careless.” Other findings of the audit included about $1.3 million in contracts awarded without competitive bids and about $1.1 million paid to temporary employment agencies without proper approvals and without analysis of the cost-effectiveness.

This, auditors said, when “school buildings were falling apart, classrooms were overcrowded, and students were being housed in inadequate, temporary classroom space.”

At that time, voters had defeated the last two budgets and a proposed $177 million bond issue to rebuild several of the deteriorating schools. The approval of that would have permitted the district to build new school buildings, repair and renovate others, and eliminate the need for portable classrooms.

Asked what will happen if the bond vote doesn’t pass on May 15, Armstrong says simply, “the children will continue to be educated in trailers.”

The state Department of Education declined to comment for this story.

Hempstead School Audit Finds Questionable Payments

The Hempstead School Board is defending itself in a lawsuit filed by its former superintendent (Photo by Bob Giglione)

A firm hired by Hempstead School District last year for $85,000 to conduct a forensic audit of its financial records released an initial report with its “preliminary findings” to the District in early January.

The memorandum of findings by Plante Moran – a highly respected firm that conducted the forensic audit of the Detroit public Schools – has not been released to the public, but the Long Island Press obtained a copy of it. The district extended the firm’s contract last week.

Findings by Plante Moran auditors include:

· 295 payroll distributions to 129 individuals who were not active employees at Hempstead Schools at the time. “It is unclear why individuals would still be receiving pay after their termination dates,” the memorandum stated.

· Several employees listed with birthdates of Aug 31, 2017, several employees with ages exceeding 80 years old and one employee with a birthdate of 2013.

· A match between the employee master file and the vendor master file identified several “vendors who shared addresses with employees.”

· “Many” employees who received more than $3,000 in overtime pay in a month and a few who received between $4,200 and $8,150 in overtime pay in a month.

· A vendor that received $2.8 million over the last 5 years had provided numerous instances of duplicative billings – including invoices by a single tutor providing home instruction services to multiple students at the same time; and multiple appointments without approval signatures, which is required of parents for the claims.