STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — After a technicality contributed to a years-long delay, Camelot of Staten Island has finally been given the green light to apply for the city Department of Buildings (DOB) permits needed to begin construction on its new treatment facility.
The new 35-bed treatment facility will replace the existing Camelot facility at 263 Port Richmond Ave.
Luke Nasta, CEO of Camelot, told the Advance/SILive.com he’s happy things are finally moving along – giving credit to Staten Island lawmakers for putting pressure on the city and state – but continued to call out what he says is a lack of urgency.
“What’s it going to take for them to really do something about the [substance misuse] epidemic? How many people have to die?” Nasta questioned.
Nasta said government has already shown they can move quickly and utilize financial and technical resources when necessary; he referenced the emergency field hospitals that were built almost overnight to treat coronavirus (COVID-19) patients.
When the COVID-19 vaccine became available, money was utilized for public awareness campaigns and vaccination hubs were set up and staffed in record time.
Yet, as overdose numbers nationally hit record highs, treatment facilities are not opening, and medical professionals are relying on medication — naloxone and buprenorphine — he says are not working.
OD DEATHS HIT RECORD HIGHS IN 2020
The nation reached the highest levels of opioid-related deaths ever recorded in 2020, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) this week. In a 12-month span, 93,000 fatalities were recorded — surpassing the previous high of 72,000 in 2019, an increase of 29%.
In New York City, last year’s predicted overdose death total increased by nearly 37%.
Through the first six months of the pandemic, Staten Island saw more than double the number of overdose deaths it suffered in 2019. Experts voiced concerned that treatment options were scarce on the borough as the pandemic caused restrictions that made support options less accessible.
This year there were 88 overdoses on Staten Island between Jan. 1 and May 6, a year-over-year increase of 14.29%, according to data from District Attorney Michael McMahon’s office.
Of the 88 overdoses, 38 were fatal and the rest were non-fatal “saves.” The fatalities represent an 8.57% increase from the 35 fatalities during the same time last year and a 19.05% increase in saves.
There were 212 total overdoses in 2020, preliminary data showed, a decrease of 6.61% compared to 2019 when there were 227.
CONSTRUCTION OF CAMELOT FACILITY WAS SUPPOSED TO BEGIN IN 2017
Camelot received a $1 million grant from the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) in 2015 that would add 35 treatment beds for males 18 and older and will offer residential treatment services including medication-assisted treatment and group and individual therapy, as well as outpatient services.
When the grant was awarded, construction was set to begin in 2017 with a target open date in 2019. It’s been six years since that grant was awarded and there is not yet a scheduled construction start date, Nasta said, although the existing building has been demolished and the ground has been leveled.
The delay in applying for the permit was due to a technicality with the city DOB. “They’re looking at the building as if they are apartments, which would give the clients tenant rules, and that’s not what this is. This is a treatment program,” he explained.
A DOB spokesperson said the project at 263 Port Richmond Ave. is an Occupancy Group 1 alcohol and drug abuse rehabilitation center, which is subject to the state’s Multiple Dwelling Law.
Because the facility is a multiple dwelling that contains individual units without both in-unit kitchens and bathrooms, the units are legally “rooming units” pursuant to the Housing Maintenance Code and require approval from the city Housing and Preservation Department.
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