First comprehensive outpatient treatment center for opioid users opens in Brooklyn

August 7, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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Brooklyn’s Center for Community Alternatives (CCA) opened the doors of its pioneering Wellness Center in Downtown Brooklyn on Thursday, marking a landmark moment in the city’s response to the opioid crisis.

The unveiling of the Wellness Center, located on Chapel Street, was heralded by nearly 150 attendees, including government officials, public health and community leaders, lawmakers, and advocates.

“As administrative judge for criminal matters in Kings County Supreme Court and presiding judge of the Brooklyn Mental Health Court, I am pleased to welcome the Center for Community Alternatives’ new Wellness Center to Brooklyn and look forward to working together to ensure successful criminal justice outcomes for those in our courts living with drug addiction and serious mental illness,” said Matthew D’Emic, Presiding Judge of the Brooklyn Domestic Violence Court and the Brooklyn Mental Health Court.

Hon. Matthew D’Emic, the Administrative Judge of the Kings County Supreme Court, Criminal Term, speaks at the opening of the CCA’s new Wellness Center in Downtown Brooklyn.

The CCA Wellness Center represents the city’s first comprehensive integrated outpatient treatment program tailored specifically to opioid users impacted by the justice system. The program builds on CCA’s decades-long commitment to providing treatment and harm-reduction services for active substance users within the community.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

In addition to its focus on those affected by mass incarceration and community disinvestment, the CCA Wellness Center offers a range of comprehensive harm reduction services. These include medication-assisted and opioid treatments, mental health counseling, court advocacy, health education, and employment support. All services are provided by an experienced team of medical experts and peers.

“We lived through the 60s and 70s and heroin, the 80s and 90s and crack cocaine, I am alarmed at what we are facing with fentanyl,” Mayor Eric Adams said. “We cannot continue to watch families and lives destroyed.

“Just because you’re at the bend in a road does mean you’re at the end of the road, as long as you’re allowed to make the turn,” Adams continued. “On the other side of addiction, we see viable, healthy New Yorkers that want to give back. We are committed to doing our part, as we make our communities and city safe to raise healthy children and families. Let us continue to move forward.”

At the heart of the CCA Wellness Center’s approach is its provision of medicine for opioid use disorder as a key component of a holistic wellness plan. Abundant evidence shows that methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone all reduce opioid use and opioid use disorder-related symptoms. Moreover, when integrated within a holistic wellness plan, these medications can lower the risk of infectious disease transmission and justice-system involvement, often linked with the criminalization of drug users.

More than 150 members of the legal community came together in Brooklyn on Thursday to celebrate the opening of the city’s first comprehensive integrated outpatient treatment program for opioid users.

The Wellness Center is currently active and accepting new referrals. Those interested are encouraged to reach out to Brian Lupo, CCA’s Community Outreach Liaison.

“CCA’s Wellness Center is more than just a clinic, it is a one-stop shop for community and resources for people making the active choice to transform their lives on their own terms,” said Brian Lupo, CCA’s Community Outreach Liaison. “At CCA’s Wellness Center, community members who receive medication can also take part in goal-oriented harm reduction, sustained recovery, and mental health & wellness programs as part of a community of like-minded people.

“We encourage participants to utilize our computers for job training and resume building,” Lupo added. “On any given day, you can see people browsing our community library and closet. Sometimes people come in just to have a cup of coffee or tea and speak with our staff and learn about the community resources we can connect them with.”

The Wellness Center’s establishment is part of a larger, more than $17 million initiative by The New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS). The initiative aims to establish up to 39 such programs across New York State, centralizing medication treatment, including methadone, and other addiction and healthcare services, aiming to streamline access to care for New Yorkers seeking treatment for substance use disorders.

The opioid crisis is worsening in New York, with a significant rise in opioid-related overdoses and fatalities since the onset of the pandemic, according to the state’s Department of Health. This issue is particularly acute among individuals who use opioids and have been incarcerated, who face a heightened risk of overdose following their release. Medication-assisted treatments have been shown to significantly lower this risk.

Fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid, is now implicated in most opioid-related deaths. In 2021, of the 2,686 people in New York City who died of drug overdoses, 80% had fentanyl in their system. Between January and September 2022, opioid-related overdoses claimed an average of 15 lives per day in New York.

Racial disparities are also evident in this crisis, with the highest overdose mortality rates found among Black residents (38.2 per 100,000), followed by Latinx (33.6 per 100,000), and white (32.7 per 100,000) residents in NYC.

In response to the escalating opioid crisis, the Center for Community Alternatives (CCA) is working tirelessly to offer the most effective treatment strategies available, adopting harm reduction principles, and helping individuals to achieve their self-determined, prosocial goals.


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