Chemical Dependency Treatment Unit opens

OBSERVER Photo by Damian Sebouhian Dennis McCarthy, director of marketing for Kaleida Health; Mary LaRowe, president and CEO of Brooks-TLC; Sen. Catherine Young; County Executive George Borrello; Katrina Fuller, representative for Congressman Tom Reed; Wendy Luce, vice president of behavioral health & clinics; Christopher Lanksi, chairman of the Board of Directors for Brooks Memorial Hospital; Megan Schmitt, director of chemical dependency take part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday for the inpatient chemical dependency treatment unit.

IRVING — The Brooks-TLC Hospital System held a grand opening ceremony Thursday for its inpatient chemical dependency treatment unit, located on the third floor of the Lake Shore Health Care Center in Irving.

The 20-bed in-patient center will be available for those in need of rehabilitation from alcohol and drug addiction.

Patients will have their own private rooms and can stay anywhere from 14 to 28 days as they receive individualized, trauma-informed care. Wendy Luce, vice president of behavioral health & clinics informed everyone that the treatment facility will receive its first patient on June 4. Sen. Catherine Young and County Executive George Borrello, both instrumental in getting the center off the ground, were on hand for the ribbon cutting ceremony, as was a representative for Congressman Tom Reed.

Sen. Young acknowledged all the struggles the Health Center has gone through, including the flood of 2009.

“We have really worked to turn things around,” Young said, before addressing the importance of treating what many have called an epidemic.

“You know the mission here,” she said. “You know what it is. It is such a crucial mission because we are in crisis, not only in New York state, but across the entire country.”

Young told a story of visiting a school district and being told that, “We lost another one of them last week.'”

“What he meant was another student had overdosed from heroin last week. The way they talked about it, like it was so matter-of-fact, like it was a common thing. Unfortunately, I hear it every single day … where people are overdosing, families are devastated, people’s lives are ruined.”

Young said that with this new facility, there will be a means to “help them recover, turn their lives around, give support to the family, get them well. The need for this type of facility is so great.”

Borrello explained that not only does the opioid epidemic hurt families and communities, it is severely damaging to economic development.

“I spent the first 100 days of my office visiting with 107 businesses,” Borrello said. “The absolute same message was given to me. When I asked them what their greatest challenge was … the top issue was having someone that could show up to work every day and pass a drug test. Passing a drug test was probably the single biggest challenge that they could have in getting people to show up every day.”

Mary LaRowe, president and CEO of Brooks-TLC praised everyone who helped make the treatment unit a reality.

“The development of this unit is a direct result of significant team effort,” LaRowe said. “It demonstrates the commitment of this organization to address the critical service needs of our community. Those services are needed here, across New York state and quite frankly across the country.”

Luce described the health practitioners as a “multi-disciplinary team that consists of psychiatry, clinicians, techs, support staff and we have registered nurses.

“It’s a very sound program clinically. We focus a lot on trauma-informed care which is treating the whole person, body and mind. We’ll be doing a lot with music therapy. This location is big enough where people will have space to be able to meditate or do yoga in their private rooms.”

The facility takes most insurance policies, Luce said.

“Our admission coordinator (will receive) calls and she will take basic information and explain the rules of the program,” she added.

According to the Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services, there have been close to 200 drug-related or drug overdose deaths in the county since 2015. Rates of death and emergency room visits for opioid overdoses are higher in this county than the state average.

“My personal thanks to our current leadership team and the ones who proceeded us,” LaRowe said. “They have made this program a reality.”