Brown Helps Organize 3rd Annual Strengthening the System of Care for Co-Occurring Disorders Long Island Conference

Editor’s Note: To register as a sponsor for this event, please use the link on the flyer. The flyer can be found here.

Assemblyman Keith P. Brown (R,C-Northport) helped organize the 3rd Annual Strengthening the System of Care for Co-Occurring Disorders Long Island Conference set to take place in person at the Radisson Hotel Hauppauge-Long Island on Thursday, April 11, 2024, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The goals of this annual conference include highlighting areas of need, improving access to care for individuals with mental health and substance use disorders and helping provide better support for families. Mental illness and substance use disorders often co-exist. Some statistics even show roughly 50 percent of people with severe mental disorders are affected by substance use. 37 percent of those with alcohol use disorders and 53 percent of drug users also have at least one serious mental illness.

Presenters and moderators at the conference will include: Assemblyman Keith P. Brown, Sen. Nathalia Fernandez, CN Guidance and Counseling Services representative Mary Silberstein, private consultant and trainer with ZiaPartners, Inc. Kenneth Minkoff, Center for Practice Innovations representative and CEO of Chacku Mathai Consulting LLC Chacku Mathai, New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) Commissioner Dr. Ann T. Sullivan, New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS) Commissioner Dr. Chinazo Cunningham, Family Service League representative Patricia Ferrandino, Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence representative Steve Chassman, Seafield Center representative Anthony Rizzuto, Parent Advocates representative Sharon Richmond, the harris project representative Stephanie Marquesano, Westchester Jewish Community Services representative Daveda James, Catholic Health System Long Island representative Gary Perodin, Nassau Suffolk School Board Association representative Bob Vecchio, Western Suffolk BOCES representative Mike Flynn, Outreach representative John Venza, Hispanic Counseling Center representative Claudia Boyle, Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health representative Lorena Rucaj, Family & Children’s Association representative Jeff Reynolds and Hands Across Long Island representative Melissa Wettengel. Each and every one of these speakers is committed to addressing mental health and substance use needs in individuals and families throughout the state and country.

“I am very proud to help organize and have the opportunity to speak at this very important conference with so many caring doctors, counselors, integrated care professionals and leaders in the medical and mental health care fields,” said Brown. “Spreading awareness of co-occurring disorders, promoting integration of co-occurring services throughout our system of care and highlighting the value of integration of care will help pave the way for advancement in co-occurring disorder treatment and support for affected individuals and their families. This year, we are planning to conclude the conference with a ‘Call to Action’ and ask attendees to draft a Co-Occurring Disorders Bill of Rights/Action Statement for introduction in the Legislature this session.”

Dr. Jeffrey L. Reynolds, Ph.D, president/CEO, Family & Children’s Association stated, “Whether you are struggling with a mental health condition, a Substance Use Disorder (SUD), or both, as so many Long Islanders are these days, there should be no wrong door into care, and this conference is about ensuring that reality. This is one of the few conferences statewide where participants leave with a call to action and a concrete plan for advancing access to competent care for people with co-occurring disorders.” 

“I am honored to once again collaborate with Assemblyman Brown and this incredible team from Long Island. The advancement of co-occurring disorders awareness, as well as an emphasis on prevention and access to appropriate treatment and support in school settings, are integral to successful outcomes for our youth. The additional focus this year on legislative opportunities recognizes this as a pivotal moment for change. Together, we can make a meaningful healthier difference for all New Yorkers,” said Stephanie Marquesano, founder and president of the harris project.

Mary Silberstein, LCSW, CN Guidance & Counseling Services and committee planning partner stated, “Co-occurring disorder treatment is crucial in addressing the complexity of individuals who suffer from both substance use and mental health disorders simultaneously. Yet our system of care often fails to treat both and often leads to ineffective management of symptoms or no care at all. We must raise our collective behavioral health bar on Long Island and throughout New York state to eliminate the barriers that people meet when seeking co-occurring disorder care. This conference presented by leaders and experts from Long Island, Westchester, New York state and nationally seeks to do just that.”

“Individuals suffering with both a Substance Use Disorder and a mental health issue (co-occurring disorder) have seen a huge increase since Covid. Unfortunately, our treatment delivery systems often handle one or the other issue. It is time that these issues can be addressed simultaneously under one roof. Integrating systems of care will be a much more user-friendly process for those afflicted,” said Anthony Rizzuto, director of provider relations at Seafield Center.

“When you lose your only child, your world is turned inside out and upside down. Watching my son Vincent face barriers in receiving treatment for both his substance use and his mental health was heart-wrenching. I will continue on this journey in his honor to advocate to strengthen the system of care for co-occurring disorders alongside such knowledgeable, experienced and passionate individuals. For now, I have found the beauty of hope and it helped me realize that when you want to create change it may be difficult, but it is never impossible,” said Sharon Richmond.

“Parents looking for help with their teens need to knock on one door where their child’s mental health and substance use disorder can be treated,” said John Venza, vice president, Outreach.

“Registration for the upcoming 3rd Annual Strengthening the System of Care for Co-Occurring Disorders Long Island Conference is now closed, but registration for event sponsors is still open,” said Brown. “I hope to see you there!”

In 2023, Brown helped organize and had the opportunity to speak at the 2nd Annual Strengthening the System of Care for Co-Occurring Disorders Conference on Long Island, and this year, he is hopeful there will be an even greater turnout. General registration is now closed, but registration for event sponsors is still open.