The Wellbridge Addiction Research and Treatment Center under construction in Calverton. Courtesy photo

The Wellbridge Addiction Treatment and Research in Calverton is now slated to open in March.

The contractors are finishing up the construction and as soon as the certificate of occupancy is issued, Wellbridge will take occupancy and bring its staff to the facility for about 45 days of training, Wellbridge CEO Andrew Drazen said in a phone interview today.

Wellbridge had originally been hoping to open this month, but the facility isn’t ready yet and the on-board training period after it’s occupied is essential, Drazan said.

“These are complex facilities to set up,” Drazan said.

The 130-bed addiction research and rehabilitation facility on a 95.6-acre site on Jan Way at the Calverton Enterprise Park will be the first of its kind on Long Island. It will be operated in affiliation with Northwell Health.

It will be the first “learning laboratory” for addiction treatment launched by a major academic health system in the country, according to Dr. Jonathan Morgenstern, Northwell’s director of the Center for Addiction Services and Personalized Interventions Research.

“By integrating research with clinical care, we will create a learning laboratory that will accelerate the discovery of new and effective treatments for addiction,” Morgenstern said at the facility’s groundbreaking ceremony in October 2018.

“With a vulnerable population, we have to have so many components in place so that we can give our clients the best opportunity to succeed,” Drazan said today. “There’s clinical care, safety, food service, hospitality, maintenance — it’s not unlike opening up a hospital,” Drazan said.

Meanwhile, Wellbridge is recruiting, interviewing and hiring, Drazan said. Medical and other staff already on board are working at the company’s office in Garden City, he said.

The staffing process is “very involved,” Drazan said. “We are committed to finding the best talent we can find, the most experienced in the space of addiction care,” he said. “It has not been an easy task.”

“The Town of Riverhead has been very supportive,” Drazan said. Various final inspections are being scheduled and he is expecting approvals very soon. That will allow the company to apply for its certificate of occupancy.

There is a current issue to be worked out with the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency, however. The developer received IDA benefits for the project based on a total estimated project cost of $59.06 million. Ultimately he project cost, the applicant told the IDA in September, was $94.15 million — a revised project cost of $75.6 million, plus $18.64 million in “non-IDA related expenses.” IDA benefits were not increased from the original benefits approved by the agency in March 2018, according to IDA documents.

The IDA says its adopted policy requires a fee to the IDA of 1% of the increase in project costs above the certified project cost. It is seeking an additional fee of $301,757. That amount is more than double the original fee of $135,000.

At the Jan. 6 IDA meeting, after conferring with the board in executive session, IDA counsel Richard Ehlers said the applicant is “contesting” an IDA board resolution adopted Dec. 2 which determined that the applicant owes the IDA an additional fee of $301,757.

Ehlers suggested that the board convene a fact-finding hearing before making a determination of the issue. The board set the hearing for Feb. 3 at 5 p.m.

Drazan said Wellbridge partner Engel Burman Group handles construction and financing. “I am the CEO of Wellbridge operationally,” he said.

A spokesperson for Engel Burman said last week the situation with the IDA and be described as “reasonable people agreeing to disagree.” The developer has been engaged in a series of discussions with the IDA on the issue.

“We look forward to continuing those discussions so that there is a fair and appropriate resolution,” the spokesperson said.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.