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$3.6M Boost to Help Staten Island Fight Against Drug Abuse

By Nicholas Rizzi | June 9, 2016 4:46pm
 The city's budget includes $13.5 million to help Richmond University Medical Center build a new emergency room.
The city's budget includes $13.5 million to help Richmond University Medical Center build a new emergency room.
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Richmond University Medical Center

STATEN ISLAND — A $13.5 million emergency room at Richmond University Medical Center and a $3.6 million boost to tackle problems including Staten Island's opioid abuse crisis are among projects funded in Mayor Bill de Blasio's budget.

The city's $82.1 billion spending plan, agreed to by de Blasio and the City Council Wednesday, includes funds fought for by Staten Island elected officials to increase the budget of District Attorney Michael McMahon to help tackle opioid, domestic violence and gun problems in the borough.

"We are engaged in the fight of our generation with the heroin scourge crippling Staten Island, the dramatic increase in domestic violence cases driving the homicide numbers through the roof and the gun and street violence killing our children," McMahon said in a statement.

"This budget increase is a significant investment and gives my team and me the tools and resources we need to win this fight."

McMahon said he'll use the funds to hire more staff dedicated to fighting the heroin epidemic and add funds for the Treatment Alternatives for Safer Communities program, an alternative to incarceration for drug cases.

He'll also create a dedicated Domestic Violence Bureau and a Community Partnership Unit which will "build bridges and relationships with the community to better prosecute and prevent crime," McMahon said.

Councilman Steven Matteo, who joined other Staten Island electeds to fight for the increase in February, called the budget "historic."

"This much-needed budget enhancement not only corrects a historical inequity, it is historic," Matteo said in a statement.

"It will provide the Staten Island District Attorney’s office with the vital resources it needs to combat the borough’s drug addiction crisis, as well as surging domestic violence, and it baselines funding for Treatment Alternatives for Safer Communities (TASC), sparing us from the constant 'budget dance' of defunding-then-refunding this critical drug-treatment program every year."

Aside from the DA's office, the city's budget also includes $13.5 million towards Richmond University Medical Center's $50 million plan to build a new emergency room.

"Because Staten Island does not have the safety net of a publicly-funded hospital, we must ensure that our private, two-hospital system remains viable and capable of meeting the growing needs of our residents," Matteo said in a statement.

"Thanks to Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, we have secured an unprecedented commitment from this Council for this critical project, and helped to secure the long-term viability of the borough’s healthcare."

The new facility will increase the emergency room's size, add private treatment rooms, new equipment, designated triage and trauma rooms and more, according to the hospital.

"This budget recognizes the necessity of this project for the people of Staten Island," hospital CEO Dr. Daniel Messina said in a statement.

"We’re excited about this project and the transformative impact it will have on emergency care on Staten Island."

The emergency room will be built onto the existing one, which will be retrofitted for a different use, and construction is expected to start in the fall, the hospital said.