In 2016, 90 percent of Broome County’s 76 drug-overdose deaths were heroin- or opioid-related, according to District Attorney Steve Cornwell’s office.
Broome County Executive Jason Garnar held a public forum Monday evening to discuss the region’s battle against opioids, and specifically, the plan to repurpose the Broome Developmental Center. Roughly 40 people gathered in the Broome County Public Library to hear community comments and talk about the proposal to make the center a space for rehabilitation.
The Broome Developmental Center, located on a 40-acre property in the Town of Dickinson, provided services for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities until its closure last year. The long-term inpatient services provided by the center were seen as a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires people with disabilities to be integrated into communities rather than be institutionalized. The center discharged its last patient in March 2016.
Now, a state-funded plan may give the old center a new purpose ― fighting addiction. The proposal has two phases: first, to establish medically supervised withdrawal and stabilization of patients, and second, to provide long-term residential care.
The first phase will provide 50 beds for supervised withdrawal and stabilization, during which patients are guided through detoxification with or without medication. Medication-assisted therapy, individual and group counseling, transportation to treatment at discharge and evidence-based medical practices would be provided to adults who are suffering from withdrawal symptoms or can’t abstain from substances that were used in the past.
Details regarding the second phase are still being finalized, and will be contingent upon the progress and results of phase one. The second phase is expected to provide 50 additional residential rehabilitation beds and utilize the rest of the center’s campus.
Garnar, who ran on the platform of repurposing the developmental center, said constituents’ comments on the rehabilitation services already available in Broome County reflected the necessity for new resources.
“We’ve had a number of people say, ‘We’ve called places; there’s a waiting list and we can’t get in,’” Garnar said.
At the forum, community members voiced their support for the treatment center, but others said they’re concerned that the center wouldn’t provide youth rehabilitation services and wouldn’t help treat people from outside the area.
Renee Gotthardt, a social worker at the Greater Binghamton Health Center, said under the current proposal, there will be a lack of beds for addicted adolescents.
“We have a responsibility to give them the same treatment, if not more treatment, than we are giving the adult population because these kids are just perpetuating this problem into adulthood, if they make it to adulthood,” Gotthardt said.
Kathryn Simons, another social worker at the Greater Binghamton Health Center, said in order to take action, other people need to pay attention.
“For teen advocacy, it’s about, ‘Do we have enough people paying attention?’ and I don’t think we do,” Simons said.
A budget proposal is currently being drafted to present to the county legislature for approval. If it’s approved, the center is expected to open two months later.