One of Long Island’s most prolific development firms is teaming with the area’s largest health system to create a unique addiction treatment and research complex in Calverton.
The $90 million project from Garden City-based Engel Burman Group and Northwell Health, which received site plan approval last week from the Town of Riverhead, will bring six buildings to a nearly 40-acre site already owned by the developer.
The 134,000-square-foot center, to be known as Wellbridge, will have 80 beds to serve a mix of short-term detoxing and longer-term extended care patients. But besides the treatment aspect, the facility will also focus on research, compiling data on sleep patterns, nutrition, exercise and various therapies to share with the scientific community to find best practices and advance addiction rehabilitation protocol.
“Working with medical professionals, we’re going to try and figure out what alters someone’s needs in a scientific way,” says Andrew Drazan, Wellbridge’s CEO. “We want to create new interventions that work and curb people’s need for addictions.”
Drazan, a long-time friend of Engel Burman Group principals Jan Burman and Steve Krieger, first pitched the developer on the idea for the treatment/research center in 2011.
“There are many components to a project like this and I know they (Engel Burman) had the wherewithal, fortitude and financial resources to get this done,” Drazan said. “We expect this to be the epicenter for addiction research in the country.”
For Drazan, the virulent problem of addiction is personal. The former retail merchandising executive experienced the tragic consequences of addiction as a young boy, when his mom Carol died from alcohol and narcotics abuse.
“This is so needed,” Drazan told LIBN. “More than 500 people died from opioids on Long Island last year. There were more opioid deaths in the country last year than there were from auto accidents.”
Specifically, Drazan said, Suffolk County had the most opioid fatalities of any other county in the state.
By affiliating with health system giant Northwell, Drazan says the new center will “have the opportunity to take advantages of their vast facilities.” Northwell’s Peconic Bay Medical Center is located just a couple of miles from the Wellbridge site in Calverton.
Northwell will also incorporate clinical and academic resources from the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, and Zucker Hillside Hospital and South Oaks Hospital, two Northwell-run psychiatric facilities that specialize in substance abuse services.
The new Wellbridge facility will combine the latest in addiction research, including brain imaging and other neuroscience investigational methods, along with alternative treatments and care.
Jonathan Morgenstern, Northwell’s director of addiction services, will be overseeing operations at the Wellbridge complex, which will be licensed by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.
“We intend to make this facility a center for addiction research and treatment together, which is the first of its kind in this country attached to a major health system,” Morgenstern said via email. “Having patients down the hall from researchers is very rare in addiction treatment centers. We will continue to follow our clients even after they’ve completed their treatment so we’ll have outcome information on them for years to come so we can track their long-term progress. Because we’re starting this program from scratch, we can employ the best evidence-based medicine and the latest technologies that are available, recognizing that recovery is a complicated and long-term process.”
The site for the Wellbridge center is the last piece of available property at the 500-acre Engel Burman subdivision in the Enterprise Park at Calverton, which the company began developing in 2001. Since then, it has sold most of it to end-users who’ve built more than 2 million square feet of industrial buildings there.
“The property we own in Calverton is an ideal location,” said EGB principal Jan Burman. “It’s within driving distance for 50 million people, so there are so many people that can take advantage of a facility like this.”
Burman added that many people seeking addiction treatment are forced to leave the area to get help, which is why the Wellbridge project will make a significant impact.
“Families will now be able to visit patients and that’s a key component of healing,” Burman said.
The project has received economic incentives from the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency and Drazan credits the town’s newly minted Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith for her “instrumental” role in moving the plans forward.
Few area developers have been as busy lately as Engel Burman, which owns and operates 16 Bristal Assisted Living facilities in the New York metropolitan area and has five more Bristals under construction. The company also has about 2,200 units of multifamily housing on the drawing board which should be underway in the next 18 months.
The developer plans to start construction on the Calverton complex in May and expects to have it open by the third quarter of 2019. It is projected to have at least 100 employees. Though Wellbridge is a for-profit facility, Burman says revenue is not the motivation behind the developer’s involvement.
“It’s not about making money,” he says. “It’s about giving something back.”