Waiting lists to get into drug-treatment clinics are growing in Suffolk County amid the heroin epidemic, while experts say the delay can prove deadly for addicts.
There are currently just six methadone clinics on Long Island, and the waiting list for treatment is hundreds of names long.
"We know that when folks are denied access to treatment in a very immediate way, they traditionally relapse, they wind up incarcerated or they wind up dead of overdoses," says Jeff Reynolds, of Family & Children’s Association.
Suffolk recently hired five new counselors for its methadone program, but clinic administrator Tom Schmidt says that's still probably not enough. "Methadone maintenance treatment is indefinite in duration, so there's not a lot of turnover as far as patients go."
One of Long Island's methadone clinics was forced to close and has not yet been replaced. It was located at Long Beach Hospital, which shut down after Superstorm Sandy in 2012. The clinic had operated there since 1970.
Bob Krauss ran the Long Beach clinic for nearly 40 years, and he's been fighting to get funding and a place to reopen the clinic. "We need a program on the South Shore of Long Island. There should be treatment on demand," Krauss says.
It's estimated that there are 40,000 people currently enrolled in methadone treatment programs in New York state. President Barack Obama recently proposed spending another $1.1 billion in new funding to help treat people addicted to heroin and opioids.