There is a stigma attached to the idea of addiction or substance abuse. But, in Calverton, there is a facility that is taking a new approach and trying to change the way people receive medical treatment as well as how they should be understood by the outside world. At Wellbridge, the plan is to take a more evidence-based approach to substance abuse that is not always common practice with other facilities.
“These are the beginning steps into how to take the traditional one-size-fits-all approach and mold it into something that will work for each patient individually at a local level,” said Dr. Hakimi, who oversees all medical care teams at Wellbridge.
For recovery, many people may feel a stigma attached to substance abuse.
“We can try and chip away at the stigma and shame that people go through,” said Andrew Drazan, the founder and chairman at Wellbridge.
Many people have this image of what an “addict” is supposed to look or act like, but in reality, many people struggle with daily life issues and are medicating themselves with alcohol and medications, also known as a co-occurring disorder.
Drazan has close ties with substance abuse; growing up in Rockville Centre, his parents got divorced at a young age, and he was placed in his mother’s custody.
“I started to see some very peculiar things at 6 years old,” said Drazan, who would drag his mother to her bed with his siblings when he came home from school. His mother was depressed, and the medication she was prescribed had adverse effects with alcohol. “I came home as a 9-year-old, and she died of an overdose.”
For a long time, there was an overriding shame about what had happened to his mother, and throughout the rest of his upbringing Drazan mentioned that they would never say his mother’s name in his household. For a while, Drazan stayed away from the past events of his life. However, he began volunteering at Nassau University Medical Center in 2008.
“When I took families to the morgue for their overdosed children, I realized I was there for a reason,” he said. This led to the idea of creating a facility that gave respect and dignity to those undergoing treatment.
Dr. Hakimi, who has been in the field of addiction medicine since 2014, expressed that his goal has always been to bring in individualized care.
“Everything we provide to patients is patient centered; we want to eliminate barriers for patients and to really escalate the level of care for patients of all walks of life,” he explained.
Typical admission can be a long and tedious process, but Wellbridge helps to make it easier for those seeking care.
“I cringe when I hear the word ‘addict.’ We are trying to get away from referring to people that way,” said Drazan. “The majority of people coming to Wellbridge are working people. The people who are coming in now are of all walks of life.”
It all started with a wooded area that was a blank slate in Calverton. The developers were able to break ground in 2018 and opened the facility in the height of COVID. But through all these obstacles, the culture has stayed the same.
“For Wellbridge, the thought was always to have a holistic approach to care, but also to provide dignity, hope, and respect,” said Drazan. “Why should you be diminished and disrespected?”
Wellbridge consists of 130 beds, six buildings, and 135,000 square feet. The goal is still to create different paths for you to recover the best—nobody is the same.
“I think we have tremendous potential to help so many from the 631 area code—so many in a 15, 10, 25-mile radius,” added Drazan.