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City Approves Rehab, State Still To Weigh In

City Approves Rehab, State Still To Weigh In

Queens Tribune (3/30/2007)

by Lee Landor

To the dismay of several local elected officials and residents, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene this week recommended approval of an application to replace St. Joseph’s hospital with an inpatient drug and alcohol treatment facility.

Earlier this year Cornerstone, which operates a treatment facility in Manhattan, signed the lease for St. Joseph’s and applied for relocation of its facility to the building, located in Flushing at 159-05 Union Tpke.

Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) and Councilman Jim Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) protested the application and called on the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services to deny Cornerstone’s request.

In addition to three areas in the application that, according to Lancman, contained misleading information, local leaders and residents are concerned about the affect Cornerstone will have on the surrounding community.

“This residential community is already saturated with substance abuse facilities,” Lancman said, referring to Aurora Concept across the street from the former St. Joseph’s and the program at Queens Hospital Center. “There are at least 10 schools and houses of worship within a few blocks of the proposed site. If ever a location was wrong for another substance abuse treatment facility – let alone a five-story hospital – this is it.”

Expressing his disappointment with the City’s decision, Lancman said he would continue advocating to OASAS that the application fails to meet the agency’s guidelines. He has also drafted a bill to amend the mental hygiene law (with regard to substance abuse facilities in the City) to include community involvement and a character evaluation of the facility, among other things. Currently, State Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale) is working on a companion bill in the senate.

Cornerstone representatives assured locals that the effect of their facility on the community would be minimal and certainly not harmful. Calling the program “fundamentally different” from other rehabilitation and treatment programs, spokesman James Capalino said Cornerstone offers distinct services and has established itself during the last quarter century as a leader in the chemical dependence treatment field.

Cornerstone is now awaiting approval from OASAS, a lengthy process that Lancman said he hopes will end in rejection.