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Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn

Dr. Joseph Rella at his last graduation ceremony at Comsewogue High School in 2019. File photo by Kyle Barr/TBR News Media

The Suffolk County Legislature has approved naming Port Jefferson Station’s Terryville Greenbelt in honor of former Comsewogue School District Superintendent Dr. Joseph Rella. The initiative was led by Legislator Kara Hahn, in honor of the highly regarded teacher, principal and administrator who passed away in February 2020 at the age of 69. 

 Described as “one of the most courageous and inspiring educators ever,” Dr. Rella began his 25-year career with the Comsewogue School District as a part-time music teacher at John F. Kennedy Middle School. He also served as principal of Comsewogue High School prior to becoming school superintendent in 2011, a post he held until his retirement from the district in 2019. 

“Dr. Rella was absolutely beloved in the community. Every child in the Comsewogue School District knew he cared about them, knew he believed in them and knew he loved them,” said Legislator Hahn. “His impact upon the district, his students’ lives and this community have been profound and through this tribute we honor the lasting legacy of his actions.” 

Located within the Central Suffolk Special Groundwater Protection Area, the Terryville Greenbelt is situated between Route 112 and North Bicycle Path in Port Jefferson Station.  The greenbelt area is over 75 total acres that Suffolk County and the Town of Brookhaven have each pursued preserving through individual and joint purchases of open space parcels. 

“The Terryville Greenbelt adjoins Comsewogue High School so forever linking this preserved land to the school where Dr. Rella served and to the greater community seems fitting,” said Leg. Hahn.

The bill, which has been co-sponsored by neighboring Legislators Sarah Anker and Nick Caracappa, now goes to County Executive Steve Bellone for his signature. It is anticipated that once the naming becomes official, a ceremony will be held in recognition of Dr. Rella’s contribution to education and to his community. 

“Dr. Rella cultivated a community where people came together and respected one another in all of their differences. His mission was we are one, working together to be the best we can be. His focus was always to ensure the best for the students and their families” said Joseph Coniglione, Comsewogue SD Assistant Superintendent for Staff and Student Services. 

“He created a culture of kindness throughout his career and having a wellness space dedicated in his memory is a tremendous honor for his family, our schools and this community.”

Purple rocks with faces and names painted on them represented local lives lost to fentanyl. Photo from Kara Hahn’s office

Grieving residents and elected officials gathered on Tuesday, May 9, for a press conference in Hauppauge hosted by Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) for National Fentanyl Awareness Day. A pebble was dropped into a jar every 8 1/2 minutes during the press conference, representing the average span that another individual dies from a fentanyl overdose in the United States. Purple rocks with faces and names of lost loved ones painted on them were placed on the ground in front of the podium, representing the 175 lives lost each day due to this epidemic.

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn, at podium, hosted a press conference on May 9 to raise awareness about the dangers of fentanyl. Photo from Kara Hahn’s office

In addition to Hahn, several other elected officials attended and spoke at the press conference, including county legislators Anthony Piccirillo (R-Holtsville), Manuel Esteban (R-East Northport), Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) and Stephanie Bontempi (R-Centerport).

Several parents and family members of individuals who had lost their lives due to an opioid addiction also spoke. One common thread speakers emphasized was that prevention is key.

Something as simple as parents talking to their children about the dangers of drugs could encourage them to never experiment in that area. Dorothy Cavalier, currently chief of staff for county Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) and future candidate for Anker’s term-limited post, said that she’s “seen the great work that we can do and the amazing things that can happen when people just talk [to their children].” She warned that children might receive a pill from another kid at school thinking that it will help them focus while studying, but it might be laced with fentanyl.

Doctors overprescribing drugs for other issues could also lead to an addiction. Esteban said that there needs to be accountability for doctors to disincentivize giving out dangerous drugs too freely. “We need laws to hold doctors responsible who overprescribe,” he said. Piccirillo added that the county has won lawsuits against large pharmaceutical companies and put that money back into the community to help parents and children that are battling this addiction issue.

Several speakers also touched on the need for better treatment options for those attempting to overcome this battle with addiction. “We need programs that give people a fighting chance,” Esteban said. “Studies show they need at least three months. Why are we not funding these programs?” 

The mental health crisis was also discussed as a factor in this rising issue. Bontempi emphasized that part of this has to do with putting too much pressure on children and keeping expectations too high. Claudia Friszell, who lost her son to an overdose and is a drug treatment advocate, said, “We need to talk to our kids about dealing with stress and our emotions.”

Kennedy emphasized that we “need more funding for mental health treatment, which includes substance misuse.” She said that it should be a focus to get the federal and state governments to fund programs that get treatment to every individual who needs it.

Suffolk County Legislators Kara Hahn and Stephanie Bontempi hug after latter’s speech at the May 9 press conference to raise awareness about the dangers of fentanyl. Photo by Daniel Febrizio

Many speakers wished to remove the stigma around drug addiction. Carole Trottere, who lost her son in 2018 and helped organize this event, said, “Some people think these kids deserved what they got or they knew what they were getting into.” She added that some people will say that all those who have died from overdoses were “just a bunch of drug addicts.”

Blue Point resident Dorothy Johnson, who lost her son in 2011, wants to remove that shame and stigma. She said that when returning to work after her son passed, no one wanted to talk about it with her. Johnson works in her community to get people discussing this issue so that those in need know they are not alone.

Steve Chassman, executive director for the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, emphasized that if a person is struggling with addiction they should reach out for help. “If you’re out in the cold from opiate or substance use, it’s time to come in from the cold, and we will help you,” he said.

Hahn began the press conference by informing the attendees of the fentanyl death statistics in the United States: seven every hour, 175 each day, 1,225 each week, more than 5,250 each month and more than 63,000 each year. The hope is that an environment is built where those battling drug addiction feel supported enough to seek help before they become another number in the rising fentanyl death total.

In a press release from Hahn, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. 

The release noted that since taking office in 2012, Hahn “has sponsored several pieces of legislation designed to help stem the tide of opioid deaths in Suffolk County.”

A creative writing and drawing contest that started back in 2014 at Emma S. Clark Memorial Library in Setauket is still going strong in 2023. 

Each year, those in grades 7 to 12 who reside in the Three Village Central School District let their imaginations flow and create an original picture book for children in hopes of winning this esteemed prize. 

On April 24, Emma Clark Library board members and staff, the family of the late Helen Stein Shack, local elected officials, representatives from the Three Village Central School District and The Stony Brook School, and guests from the community gathered at the Library to honor the winners of the ninth annual Helen Stein Shack Picture Book Awards.

First prize in the Grades 7 to 9 category was awarded to Julia Hou, a 9th grader at  Gelinas Junior High School for her children’s book titled Boston Santa while Celia Gordon, a homeschooled 11th grader, captured first prize in the Grades 10 to 12 category for her book Sleeping Till Spring.

Caroline Qian, an 8th grader at Gelinas Junior High School, won second prize for her children’s book Cutie the Duck in the Grades 7 to 9 category and Amelia Grant, a 12th grader at The Stony Brook School, snagged second prize in the Grades 10 to 12 category for her book Lily’s Snowman.

Library Director Ted Gutmann, along with the family of the late Helen Stein Shack, presented all of the winners’ books, bound and added to the Library’s Local Focus Collection, along with $400 checks to first prize winners and $100 checks for second prize winners.

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn, Brookhaven Town Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich, Brookhaven Town Clerk Kevin LaValle (representing Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine), and staff members from NYS Senator Anthony Palumbo and NYS Assemblyman Ed Flood’s office were all in attendance to present certificates to the four authors.

Addressing the winners, Leg. Hahn remarked, “You clearly have talent and that’s what storytelling is…it’s sharing what’s in your heart for others to enjoy and learn from.” 

Councilmember Kornreich told all of the authors what he enjoyed the most about each book and added, “Art is a powerful language … I’m sure all of you will one day have the power to change people’s hearts and change people’s minds and to change the world.”

Town Clerk LaValle added, “It’s amazing what you did. You should be so proud of yourselves.”

Library Board President Christopher Fletcher, Vice President Carol Leister, Treasurer David Douglas, and Trustee Deborah Blair along with Three Village Central School District Trustee Jennifer Solomon, Superintendent Kevin Scanlon, Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services Brian Biscari, Gelinas Junior High School Principal Corinne Keane, Gelinas Junior High English Chair Michelle Hanczor and the Assistant Head of School at The Stony Brook School, Will Lingle were in attendance to congratulate the winners.

Guests enjoyed special treats donated by The Bite Size Bake Shop, a local Three Village-owned business.  Library teen volunteer Jack Dennehy photographed the event.

Library Director Gutmann expressed gratitude to the children of the late Mrs. Shack, who cover the cost of the awards as a tribute to their mother and her commitment to passing along the importance and joy of reading for generations to come. “We appreciate the support of all the family [of Helen Stein Shack] for their generosity in establishing this endowment and for their encouragement of literacy in our community,” he said.

In light of the fact that all of the winners were female this year, Sherry Cleary, one of the daughters of the late Helen Stein Shack, spoke of her mother, not just a mom, grandmother, or teacher, but as a woman:

“She was an amazing woman when being an amazing woman was not encouraged and not acknowledged and not a thing, she came up in an era where women had a lack of opportunities. She was brave, gutsy and really looked convention in the eye, in the face, and decided to do what was in her heart and in her soul. I leave you with that. Be brave. Be gutsy. You already are because you put yourselves out there and did this amazing work.”

See more photos from the event online at www.tbrnewsmedia.com.

Photo from Leg. Hahn's office

On May 1, Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) kicked off her annual countywide “A Park a Day in May” campaign designed to encourage Suffolk residents to visit, enjoy and help promote and protect Suffolk County’s hundreds of parks. This year, she invited her fellow legislators to participate by choosing a favorite park in each of their districts to highlight together.

In addition, in a separate but related initiative, Hahn is also partnering with the Association for Mental Health and Wellness (AMHW) to bring attention to May being Mental Health Awareness month and the tangible role parks can play in helping to minimize the impact of stress on our daily lives.

For several years, Hahn has highlighted a park a day each day for 31 days during May using social media to spread the word. She challenges county residents to visit each of the parks highlighted sometime during the spring or summer; take and post a “selfie” that identifies which park they are visiting, and include the hashtag #aparkaday with their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts.  “We have a remarkable park system in Suffolk County and across Long Island that provides our residents with nearly limitless recreational opportunities to get out in nature at very little cost,” said Hahn.  “Not only does the ‘A Park a Day in May’ Challenge give people a roadmap for exploring our majestic natural landscape, but it also gives them the opportunity to celebrate that journey of exploration with their family and friends.”

Each day in May, Hahn will highlight another park, more than half chosen by her fellow legislators. From Inlet Pond Park on the North Fork to Laurel Valley Park on the South Fork, Sagtikos Manor on the South Shore and West Hills on the North Shore, the legislators are joining with Hahn in highlighting favorite parks across the county. In 2016, Hahn began her challenge focusing on parks within District Five, the legislative district she serves. “Residents of my district really took up the challenge, and each year since we have expanded our reach and I am excited and hopeful that across Long Island, families are going to get into the spirit of the idea of ‘A Park a Day in May,’” said Hahn.

Through the “A Park a Day in May” campaign, Hahn has enlisted scores of Suffolk residents in raising awareness about Suffolk’s parks.  “Whether along a waterfront or deep in a forest, our parks and beaches are the natural resources that define our quality of life and make Suffolk and all of Long Island unique, and we must do everything we can to keep them clean, safe and accessible to local residents,” said Hahn.

Hahn chaired Suffolk’s Parks & Recreation Committee for five years beginning in 2017 and has focused on protecting the County’s more than 50,000 acres of parkland from illegal dumping and misuse, while also finding innovative ways to increase public access and enjoyment of these parks.  That year, Hahn led an effort to expose illegal dumping in some county parks and provide stiffer penalties for such abuse. Hahn has also created a volunteer Parks Stewardship program for County parks and has also created a fifth-district Parks Passport for kids and is working with the County Parks Department on a countywide version as well.

Legislator Hahn is accepting recommendations for parks to highlight during the 2023 “A Park a Day in May,” and is asking residents to take a photo of themselves in their favorite park and e-mail it to [email protected] along with the reason why that park is their favorite.


Aubrey Johnson will be at the Jazz Loft on March 25.

Jazz music will once again fill the air as the Swing Into Spring Festival returns to the North Shore from March 21 to 25, bringing with it an assortment of opportunities to hear live Jazz music. The five-day musical event will culminate in concert performances by the Aubrey Johnson Quartet and Carlos Jimenez Mambo Dulcet, and a Collegiate Big Band Brawl, Community Jazz Night and Jam Session Techniques Workshop.

The Swing into Spring Festival is the creation of Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn in partnership with Thomas Manuel, President and Founder of The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook and will be held at The Jazz Loft and in local shops and restaurants, including Sweet Mama’s, Stony Brook Chocolate, The Country House, Madiran Wine Bar, Bliss and The Three Village Inn.

“I think it is wonderful that [the Three Village area] will be alive with the sounds of Jazz for a week,” said Manuel. “The Swing Into Spring Festival has grown year after year into this wonderful mini-festival that truly brings the town to life and attracts folks from all over Long Island. We’re honored to be presenting such a diverse and unique blend of artists this year and also to be extending the invitation to young and upcoming artists.”

“Just as hearing that first songbird of the year warms spirits that have been chilled by the winter cold, so too does that first note of ‘Swing into Spring’ within this vibrant community eager to welcome locals, tourists, and music lovers back,” said Leg. Hahn.

Schedule of events

Tuesday, March 21

Collegiate Big Band Brawl                                                     

The Swing Into Spring Festival will kick off with a Collegiate Big Band Brawl where Long Island’s collegiate Jazz Ensembles face off in a battle royale! Stony Brook University’s Blowage Big Band will be performing against ensemble groups from Hofstra and Long Island University (Post) at the Jazz Loft, 275 Christian Ave., Stony Brook at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30 adults, $25 seniors, $20 students, $15 children at www.thejazzloft.org.

An evening of jazz from 6 to 8 p.m.

— Bliss Restaurant, 766 Route 25A, East Setauket welcomes Steve Salerno on guitar and Tom Manuel on cornet.

Sweet Mama’s Restaurant, 121 Main St., Stony Brook welcomes Frank Hansen on bass and Chris Donohue on tenor sax.

— Madiran Wine Bar, 209 Route 25A, East Setauket welcomes Dean Johnson on bass and Kevin Clark on guitar.

Wednesday, March 22 

Improvisation & Jam Session Techniques Workshop        

On the second day of the Swing Into Spring Festival, The Jazz Loft will host a workshop focused on improvisation followed by a jam session where Jazz musicians can collaborate on stage from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Featuring Dean Johnson on bass, Rich Iacona on piano, Tom Manuel on cornet and Ellis Holmes on drums Tickets are $10. Visit www.thejazzloft.org.

Jam Session at the Jazz Loft

The Jazz Loft  hosts a Jam Session featuring The Jazz Loft Trio led by Keenan Zachfrom 7 to 9:30 p.m.  Tickets are $10, $5 after 8 p.m.

An evening of jazz from 6 to 8 p.m. 

— Madiran Wine Bar, 209 Route 25A, East Setauket welcomes Steve Salerno on guitar, and Tom Manuel on cornet.

— Sweet Mama’s Restaurant, 121 Main St., Stony Brook welcomes Kevin Clark on guitar and Frank Hansen on bass.

— Three Village Inn, 150 Main St., Stony Brook welcomes the The Jazz Loft Trio (Dean Johnson on bass, Rich Iacona on piano and Ellis Holmes on drums).

— Country House Restaurant, 1175 North Country Road, Stony Brook presents Lee Tamboulian on piano.

Thursday, March 23 

Jimenez Mambo Dulcet in concert                                           

Carlos Jimenez Mambo Dulcet is a NYC based salsa band and will be performing at The Jazz Loft at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30 adults, $25 seniors, $20 students, $15 children at www.thejazzloft.org.

An evening of jazz from 6 to 8 p.m. 

— Country House Restaurant, 1175 North Country Road, Stony Brook welcomes Rich Iacona on piano and Tom Manuel on cornet.

Friday, March 24 

Community Jazz Night                                                                

The Jazz Loft hosts a Community Jazz Night at 7 p.m. with multiple local jazz acts performing including The Bay Big Band, Moment’s Notice, and the Keenan Zach Trio. Tickets are $30 adults, $25 seniors, $20 students, $15 children at www.thejazzloft.org.

Saturday, March 25 

Aubrey Johnson Quartet in concert                                                        

For the final day of the Swing Into Spring Festival, the Jazz Loft will present New York based vocalist, composer, and educator Aubrey Johnson in concert at 7 p.m. with Tomoko Omura on violin, Chris McCarthy on piano, and Matt Aronoff on bass. Tickets are $30 adults, $25 seniors, $20 students, $15 children at www.thejazzloft.org.

An afternoon of jazz

Stony Brook Chocolate, 143 Main St., Stony Brook welcomes Mike Hall on bass and Steve Salerno on guitar from 4 to 6 p.m. *Featuring $5 hot chocolate you can make with a chocolate instrument for sale.

Funding for the Festival comes in part from the Suffolk County Department of Economic Development & Planning and Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn and the Al Greiman Cabaret Series.

The Curry Club at SāGhar, 111 West Broadway, Port Jefferson celebrated its one year anniversary with a ribbon cutting ceremony, cake and champagne on Feb. 7. 

The event was attended by members of the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce (PJCC), Port Jefferson Station-Terryville Chamber of Commerce, elected officials, family and friends. 

Owners Kiran and Kulwant Wadhwa and Indu Kaur were presented with proclamations from Suffolk County Legislature Kara Hahn and Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich.

Pictured from left, President of the Port Jefferson Station-Terryville Chamber Jennifer Dzvonar; PJCC 1st VPStu Vincent; PJCC President Mary Joy Pipe; Leg. Kara Hahn; owners Kiran Wadhwa, Kulwant Wadhwa and Indu Kaur; Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich; and PJCC Director Loretta  Criscuoli.

From L to R: Front Row – Mari Irizarry, Director, Dotty Miller, Recording Secretary, Holly Brainard, Judi Wallace, Treasurer, Brian Bennett, David Prestia, Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn. Back Row – Vinny Menten, Patty Cain, Shamma Murphy, Corresponding Secretary, Ron LaVita, Jeff Schnee, President, David Tracy, Greg Philipps, Vice President. Not pictured: Ed Miller, Vice President, Christina Tortora, Orlando Maione and Michael O’Dwyer. Photo by: Rob Pellegrino

The Three Village Historical Society (TVHS) membership recently elected five new members: Judi Wallace, Shamma Murphy, Brian Bennett, Christina Tortora and David Tracy. The group joined current board of trustee members Holly Brainard, David Prestia,  Vinny Menten, Patty Cain, Ron LaVita, Orlando Maione and Michael O’Dwyer for a swearing in by Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn at the annual meeting of the membership and lecture on Jan. 23 at The Setauket Neighborhood House.

“These new trustees bring a wealth of experience, leadership, and perspective that will greatly enhance the ability of our board to meet the significant challenges and opportunities facing the Three Village Historical Society,” says Mari Irizarry, Director. “We look forward to working with each of them to continue the board’s focused stewardship of TVHS’ financial and community affairs to strengthen the Society’s reputation for excellence in education and community based programming.”

New Trustees

Judi Wallace, CPA, Treasurer, has owned a local accounting firm in the Three Village area for the past 19 years. Her practice includes accounting and bookkeeping services for small businesses, tax preparation and planning for individuals, corporations and non-profit organizations and she is admitted to practice before the Internal Revenue Service.

Judi has been a resident of the Three Village area since 2003 and is involved in a variety of local organizations including Treasurer of Stony Brook Rotary, Treasurer of Small Business Networking Alliance, Trustee of Three Village Community Trust, Treasurer of Three Village Historical Society, and Treasurer of SparkleFaith Inc. She is also very involved in St James RC Church in Setauket serving on the Finance Committee, Parish Council, and various other ministries.

Shamma Murphy, Corresponding Secretary has been a resident of Stony Brook for the past 10 years. She has two sons in the Three Village Central School District where she has volunteered regularly over the past seven years. Currently Shamma is the President of the Gelinas PTSA and the Treasurer of the Ward Melville High School PTSA, both in the second year of each two-year term.

For the past four years she has been recruiting volunteers to help in the Gelinas School store, keeping the store stocked and manned, being the largest fundraiser for this PTSA. Prior, she ran the Scholastic Book Fairs at Setauket Elementary School for four years, implementing a process to fill each teacher’s classrooms with at least $250 worth of new books per fair, as well as a “buy one get one free” funded 100% by the Setauket PTA to keep students reading through the summer. For the past five years Shamma has been the President’s Volunteer Service Award’s Chairperson for Gelinas Jr. High School.  She enjoys volunteering at the Three Village Historical Society very much, introduced to her by her son, Owen Murphy, a regular volunteer.

Shamma works with farmers, community gardeners and homeowners as the education and marketing director for SOS for your Soil, a local compost company, for the past ten years, prior to that, she was a civil engineer on Long Island and in Charlotte, NC for 12 years.

Brian Bennett, Trustee is a life long resident of Long Island. He received his BA in Economics from SUNY Albany and 2 MA’s from SUNY Stony Brook, in Liberal Studies and History.  Having grown up in Ronkonkoma, he had a History of Lake Ronkonkoma published in the old Long Island Forum.

Brian taught, mostly in the Sayville school district for over 30 years. He and his wife Donna have lived in Setauket for 30 years, and their 2 sons attended Three Village schools. Since retirement, he has continued to teach as an adjunct professor at both Suffolk Community College and St. Joseph’s University.  He is a coordinator of Our Daily Bread, a soup kitchen at St. James RC church and enjoys being outdoors, and doing crossword puzzles with his wife.

Christina Tortora, Trustee is a Professor of Linguistics at The City University of New York, where she is currently Deputy Executive Officer in the Linguistics Program at The Graduate Center in Manhattan. She has over 25 years of experience in higher education and management of federally funded projects from agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Chrstina is the author and editor of several academic books, journal articles, and book chapters, and has a life-long passion for teaching advanced scientific findings to students in diverse professions and academic disciplines. She grew up in Setauket and currently lives in Stony Brook, is an alumna of the Three Village School District (Nassakeag; Murphy; Ward Melville), and an alumna of Stony Brook University, where she maintains strong professional and personal ties. She has an interest in vernacular culture and oral histories and wishes to bring her academic expertise in project management and oral history to the Three Village Historical Society.

David Tracy, Trustee has been a resident of the Three Village area since 2012. He has served and continues to serve as a Law Enforcement Officer with the Department of Homeland Security since 2010. Prior to beginning his Law Enforcement career, David served in the United States Marine Corps for 4 years, completing two tours to Iraq. After serving in the military, David attended John Jay of Criminal Justice graduating with honors with a Bachelors in Criminal Justice. David has been married to his wife Becky since 2007 and has a son, Sean, who was born in 2008.

In his spare time, David is the Founder and Chairman of a local charity called the Three Village Dads Foundation. His charity is responsible for donating over $200,000 to local causes such as the Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, High School Scholarships, Veteran causes, Historical restoration projects and many other deserving recipients. David has also served as a Trustee on the Board of the Three Village Community Trust since 2020.


ABOUT TVHS — The Three Village Historical Society (TVHS), a non-profit 501(c)(3) founded in 1964 by community members, exists to educate the public about our rich cultural heritage as well as foster and preserve local history. TVHS offers museum exhibits, events, programs, archives, and other outreach initiatives to inform and enrich the public’s interest in and understanding of the vibrant past of the Three Village area along the north shore in Suffolk County, Long Island.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, announced the first round of recipients of opioid settlement funds at a Jan. 12 press conference. Photo from Steve Bellone’s Flickr page

County Executive Steve Bellone (D) announced the names of 34 organizations who will receive $25 million to combat the opioid crisis in the first round of funding secured by the county’s settlement against manufacturers, distributors and others involved in the crisis.

Suffolk County Legislature Minority Leader Jason Richberg, at podium, was on hand to announce the first round of recipients of opioid settlement funds at a Jan. 12 press conference. Photo from Steve Bellone’s Flickr page

The grant recipients, who were among the 111 that applied for funding, include community groups, nonprofits, for-profit groups and county agencies and will receive the funds over a three-year period.

The county hopes to provide funds in the next couple of weeks to combat a crisis that COVID-19 exacerbated in the last few years.

“We had begun to make real progress in the battle and in 2019, deaths declined for the first time in many years,” Bellone said at a press conference Jan. 12 announcing the recipients chosen by a bipartisan five-member committee. The pandemic “reversed that progress and, once again, we saw opioid-related deaths rising.”

Funds from the settlement against manufacturers and distributors of opioids total over $200 million, which the county will distribute over the next 20 years. The second round of funding will begin later this year. The county encouraged some of the groups that didn’t receive funding in the first round to reapply, while opening up the opportunity to other organizations that are similarly dedicated to prevention, education, treatment and recovery.


County Legislature Minority Leader Jason Richberg (D-West Babylon), who helped select award recipients, said the committee received over $170 million worth of requests.

“The goal is not only to have an immediate impact, but to have a long-standing impact,” he said in an interview. The committee wanted to take a “multifaceted approach when funding these organizations.”

Richberg said the group took a considerable number of hours to put together the list of recipients for the first round.

“We understood the urgency to make sure this came out in the best way possible,” he said.

The minority leader appreciated the perspective of fellow committee member Sharon Richmond, president of the Northport-East Northport Community Drug and Alcohol Task Force and a victim-advocate whose son Vincent died from opioids in 2017.

Richberg described Richmond as a “beacon of strength” who helped guide the group in the right direction.

At the press conference, Richmond said her son would have been “honored to know that so many people are going to get so much help” with these funds.

‘We want to reach individuals in the community and not necessarily have to wait for someone to come to our emergency departments.’

Dr. Sandeep Kapoor

Reaching out

The leaders of the groups that will receive this money have numerous approaches to combat an epidemic that has robbed the community of family members, friends and neighbors.

“We want to reach individuals in the community and not necessarily have to wait for someone to come to our emergency departments,” said Dr. Sandeep Kapoor, assistant vice president of addiction services for Northwell Health.

Northwell’s Project Connect Plus will receive about $3.5 million, which is the largest single award in the first round of funding.

Project Connect Plus would like to expand its reach and is partnering with domestic violence organizations and with Island Harvest food bank to create a pathway for people to access support.

“The goal of this initiative is to make sure we can navigate people [to services], build partnerships and ensure that people trust the process,” Kapoor said.

Project Connect Plus is emphasizing the importance of ongoing contact between health care providers and people who need support to defeat drug addiction.

He contrasted the attention most patients get after an operation with the lack of ongoing attention in the health care system for those people who come to an emergency room for drug-related problems.

‘It’s a significant amount of money that will have a significant impact. It means a lot to us to have the support of the county around harm reduction efforts.’

— Tina Wolf

Hospitals typically reach out to patients numerous times after knee operations, to check on how people are feeling, to make sure they are taking their medicine, to check for infection and to remind them of future appointments.

Someone with a substance use disorder typically receives no phone calls after an emergency room visit.

“If [the health care community] is doing right by people with knee surgery, why not take the same approach” for people who are battling addiction, Kapoor said. “We continually engage people to make sure they are not alone.”

Project Connect Plus is also partnering with other organizations, including Community Action for Social Justice, which is working toward increasing safety around drug use.

CASJ’s executive director and co-founder, Tina Wolf, provides direct services to reduce the risk for people who use drugs, such as syringe exchange and risk reduction counseling, overdose prevention training and harm reduction training.

CASJ is receiving $1.5 million from the opioid settlement.

“It’s a significant amount of money that will have a significant impact,” Wolf said. “It means a lot to us to have the support of the county around harm reduction efforts.”

Wolf said the funds will enable CASJ to double its existing harm reduction efforts in Suffolk County, which is important not only amid an increase in substance abuse in the aftermath of the pandemic, but also as people develop wounds amid a change in the drug supply.

In the last few years, amid volatility in drugs used in the county, some fentanyl has included xylazine, a pet pain reliever and muscle relaxant. In Philadelphia, Puerto Rico and Long Island, among other places, xylazine has caused significant nonhealing wounds.

“Some of this money is for wound care issues,” Wolf said.

Other grant recipients include Hope House Ministries of Port Jefferson ($600,000), Town of Brookhaven Youth Prevention Program ($75,000) and Town of Smithtown Horizons Counseling and Education Center ($111,000). 

A comprehensive list

The award recipients will update the committee on their efforts to ensure that the funds are providing the anticipated benefits and to help guide future financial decisions.

Groups have to report on their progress, Richberg said, which is a part of their contract.

County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) was pleased with the work of the recipients.

“It’s a fantastic list” that is “really comprehensive and varied in the type of services and the location geographically,” she said. “We do need so much out there.”

She believes the funds will “do some
real good.”

Wolf said she hopes “we don’t all just do well in our individual projects, but we can link those projects together. I’m hoping there’s enough overlap that we can create this net together to really make sure people aren’t falling through the cracks.”

Steve Chassman, of LICADD, shows attendees strips to test drugs for fentanyl at a Dec. 13 press conference in Port Jefferson. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) joined forces with the Westbury-based Long Island Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence to inform residents about the increased danger of opioid-related deaths during the holiday season and the threat of street drugs.

County Legislator Kara Hahn addresses attendees at the Dec. 13 press conference. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The legislator, treatment providers and family members of those who have died from opioid-related deaths, some holding posters featuring photos of their deceased loved ones, gathered at a press conference held outside Hahn’s Port Jefferson office on Tuesday, Dec. 13.

Steve Chassman, executive director of LICADD, said the area is “rich in resources, and we are going to need them.” He listed some of the organizations that provide services 24 hours a day for those dealing with drug use and their families, such as Seafield Center of Westhampton Beach and Hope House Ministries of Port Jefferson as well as LICADD. 

“We are here because it is absolutely necessary to let Long Islanders know the drug supply, not just heroin — cocaine, amphetamines, ecstasy, pressed pills — are tainted with fentanyl,” Chassman said.

He added that the death rate due to drug overdoses continues to rise, and for many families the holiday season is not a season of peace and joy.

“For families that are in the throes of substance use or opiate-use disorder, this is a time of isolation. This is a time of stigma. This is a time of financial insecurity, and we know that the rate itself, that of self-medication, increases exponentially,” Chassman said. “We’re having this press conference to let families know they’re not alone.”

Hahn said according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, winter is when drug-related deaths spike, most likely due to holiday gatherings or experiencing depression during the winter season. 

“The months of March, January and February, respectively, are traditionally the deadliest of the year for overdoses,” she said.

Hahn encouraged families to take advantage of the resources available to them.

“Too many families already face empty chairs at their tables, but there is always hope,” the county legislator said. “Recovery is possible.”

Carole Trottere, of Old Field, lost her son Alex Sutton to a heroin-fentanyl overdose in April 2018.

She said the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration now refers to overdose deaths as poisoning. The DEA has stated that six out of 10 illegal pills tested had fentanyl.

“Using street drugs is the equivalent of playing Russian roulette with your life,” Trottere said. “It’s not if it will kill you, it’s when.”

Trottere advised parents not to “hide their heads in the sand.” She said to talk to their children about the dangers of drug use and to reach out to an organization for help when needed.

Anthony Rizzuto, Seafield Center director of provider relations, said, “When I first got involved in this advocacy fight, we were at about 74,000 [deaths],” he said. “We’re looking at each other, how can we let this happen? We are now at 107,000.”

This number from the CDC, for the year ending January 2022, reflects the opioid-related deaths in the U.S.

Rizzuto said one of the challenges of providing help is the stigma attached to drug use, and people being hesitant to talk about it.

“There is no shame in getting help for the disease of addiction,” he said.

He reiterated how marijuana, cocaine and fake prescription pills often are laced with fentanyl.

“If you’re not getting your medication from a pharmacy with your name on the label, please be [suspicious],” he said. “Fentanyl kills.”

For information on how to get help, visit www.licadd.org, or call the hotline, 631-979-1700.

Brookhaven Town Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich, state Assemblyman Steve Englebright and county Legislator Kara Hahn unveil the new sign. Photo by Robert Pellegrino

A sign featuring photos and a historical narrative now marks the spot of a local landmark.

Three Village Community Trust members celebrate the unveiling of the new sign at Patriots Rock. Phot by Rita J. Egan

Elected officials, members of the Three Village Historical Society and a handful of residents joined the Three Village Community Trust in the unveiling of its new interpretive sign at Patriots Rock. The trust has been working to install signs at its properties throughout the Three Village area.

The 18-inch-by-24-inch sign at Patriots Rock, across from the Setauket Post Office on Main Street, sits atop a small metal pedestal and provides information about the area’s local importance, including the spot being a Native American meeting place and the grounds of the Battle of Setauket. During the Revolutionary War, American Patriots used the rock as a base to launch an attack against British soldiers occupying Setauket Presbyterian Church.

Signs also are situated at the Smith/de Zafra House, Brookhaven’s original town hall, and the Factory Worker Houses. TVCT began the project a few years ago, and the trust’s president, Herb Mones, said the project was based on three ideas.

“One was our hope to educate and inform residents about the history, the architecture, the economy and the culture that existed in our ever-evolving community,” he said.

The president added the hope was also to show how unique the area was, and the signs demonstrated TVCT was an active organization.

At the unveiling, Mones thanked those who worked on the project, including Robert Reuter, Greg de Bruin, Norma Watson, Paul D’Amico, Peter Legakis and Gretchen Oldrin Mones. He added Three Village Historical Society historian Beverly C. Tyler and Town of Brookhaven historian Barbara Russell assisted in verifying the information, and Tammy Burkle of Studio 631 finalized the design of the plaques.

A county cultural grant obtained by Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and a matching-challenge state grant from Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) funded the project, according to Mones. He added Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) provided guidance during the process. All three were on hand for the unveiling.

Mones said the property once belonged to Tyler’s family, and when TVCT acquired the property the trust was able to do so with a grant through Englebright’s office.

Community members joined the Three Village Community Trust in the unveiling of a new sign at Patriots Rock. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Hahn said she often wonders what was going through the minds of the soldiers who hid behind Patriots Rock during the Battle of Setauket.

“[That kind of history] is why this community is so special — it’s that strong sense of place tied to the birth of this great nation. Helping to remind folks of the significance of this spot, and every other spot that we were able to place signs at, is important to educate about and honor the tradition and history here.” Hahn said.

Englebright, who is a geologist, said in addition to remembering the history of the site, he said, “I can’t help but get excited about it because it’s very geological.”

He said Patriots Rock is only one or two main rocks in the community, and “this is the one with the greatest significance.”

“The first thing we had to do was save it,” Englebright said. “The next thing we have to do is what we’re doing today, which is to make sure that it’s properly interpreted, and that it is accessing the public’s excitement about our history because the history of our community helps you find a sense of place — and our sense of place is integral to our quality of life and a sense of community pride.”