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Catholic Charities of Staten Island Stepping Up to Fight Drug Addiction
By DAN PIETRAFESA

Catholic Charities of Staten Island is again stepping up to address the borough’s drug epidemic by acquiring Carl’s House, changing the name to Carl’s Recovery Center and moving it to the grounds of Mount Loretto.

Catholic Charities of Staten Island took ownership of Carl’s House Feb. 5 and a press conference was held April 30 to announce the launch of Carl’s Recovery Center at Mount Loretto.

More than 700 calls came through the center between Feb. 5 and the end of March. The calls were for information, referrals or from center staffers checking on people in recovery. Three recovery coaches, including Carl’s House founder Marco DiDonna, will be on the staff at the free community resource center. Its mission will be to find suitable recovery programs for people fighting drug addiction and alcoholism.

“We saw the need for it to stay here on Staten Island,” Vincent Ignizio, CEO of Catholic Charities of Staten Island, told CNY. “Having over 700 calls in the first two months demonstrated the need and mission of Catholic Charities of Staten Island to respond to the needs of that community, and that is what we’re doing here.”

Ignizio said Richmond County District Attorney Michael McMahon, who attended the press conference, said 32 people have died on Staten Island of a drug overdose this year, and 82 other individuals were saved by using Narcan, which blocks and reverses the effects of opioids.

“The opioid crisis affects every family on Staten Island, and we had to respond. This is a way we can help save lives and that is our goal,” Ignizio said.

The center is offering peer-to-peer counseling and referrals for treatment as well as weekly meetings for Heroin Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous.

DiDonna said he had a vision to offer activities such as sports and the arts during post-treatment when he first founded the center in 2015. He now believes it may happen with Catholic Charities relocating the center to Mount Loretto, which has the facilities to offer such activities.

DiDonna, now drug-free for four years, recalled how important it was to have a friend who paid his fee to play on a softball team after his treatment.

“I played softball every Sunday and I looked forward to it. I’m still playing,” he said.

“I would love to have ongoing leagues throughout the year. So, when someone comes out of treatment, they can participate in an activity. Those activities are huge.”

In January 2017, Catholic Charities of Staten Island and Carl’s House joined Catholic Charities of New York, Richmond County District Attorney Michael McMahon, Staten Island University Hospital and CYO of Staten Island in launching Staten Island’s Heroin Epidemic Archdiocese Response Team (H.E.A.R.T.). The program offers education and prevention, Narcan training and a place to turn for individuals with drug addiction and their families.

On May 22, Catholic Charities and Carl’s Recovery Center will present Staten Island’s first Recovery Expo at the CYO Community Center at Mount Loretto. Ignizio said more than 100 people affiliated with CYO Staten Island and Catholic Charities of Staten Island will be trained to use Narcan to help individuals battling a drug overdose. The expo is open to the public.

“This problem is the number one issue plaguing Staten Island. Sadly, it’s pervasive throughout the borough,” Ignizio said.

Expo information: (718) 412-1851, option 1.

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