A new addiction treatment center is one step closer to opening in downtown Brooklyn. The health sub-committee of Community Board 2 unanimously voted to write a letter of support for Redemption Point, a center that would focus on helping teens and young adults.
Redemption Point is currently setting up its office in the basement of 540 Atlantic Avenue, where founder Alfred Saunders hopes to eventually provide drug counseling along with other services including sex education and couples’ counseling. Mr. Saunders and Redemption Point’s program director, Nancy Amato, a nurse he met through a program while he was in prison, said this location is the perfect place for a rehabilitation center because it’s near several subway stations, court houses and public housing like the Ingersol and Whitman Houses, where Mr. Saunders said many young people have drug problems.
“You’ve got all these projects that circle around that I can do outreach in,” he said.
Mr. Saunders told the CB2 health committee that his personal history made him uniquely qualified to run an addiction center for teens. He said grew up in the nearby Gowanus housing projects, where his involvement in drugs led to a 15-year prison sentence. He became a certified substance abuse counselor after prison. Mr. Saunders said that he sees Redemption Point as a way to help struggling teens and as a way to redeem himself.
“To give back; to make good of what I did, if that’s possible,” he said.
Mr. Saunders originally tried to win over Community Board 2 last month, but the committee said he lacked information about the administrative workings of the rehab center, such as its board of directors and where Redemption Point was planning to get funding.
“Community Board 2 has a much higher than typical ratio of social service providers, so there’s a certain sensitivity to additional providers,” said Robert Perris, CB2 District Manager, in a phone interview prior to the committee meeting.
Mr. Saunders was prepared this time around. He presented a full list of board of directors to the CB2 committee. The board will include a local minister, as well as Mr. Saunders’ brother and sister. He also gave the committee letters of support from area businesses and told the board he had begun working with a local church, a psychiatrist and a nurse to provide counseling services. This additional information and his initiative won the board over.
“I thought it was worthy because obviously they have taken their own time and money,” said John Harrison, the committee’s co-chair.
But before Mr. Saunders and Ms. Amato can officially open Redemption Point, and begin accepting insurance and receiving state Medicaid money, they will need to clear a board of the state’s Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services on Dec. 6. Mr. Saunders and Ms. Amato said they’re optimistic that will happen.
“I’m not worried,” said Ms. Amato. “Everyone involved has that same kind of passion, and the need is there.”