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Far Rockaway Rehab Releases 150 Drug Criminals

A red tape fiasco during the hurricane forced a drug treatment center to send its court-mandated addicts free.

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The Rockaways, Queens, was devastated by
the storm. Photo via

By Chrisanne Grise

11/19/12

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In the wake of the chaos and devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy, 150 drug-addicted criminals were released from the Daytop Village substance abuse treatment center in Far Rockaway in New York, and the CEO is blaming the state’s Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) for not approving a transfer to two safer facilities upstate. “I tried to get state officials at OASAS to simply check some boxes and give us official approval to transfer our court-mandated clients to one of two upstate Daytop facilities,” says CEO Mike Dailey. OASAS had placed a cap on the number of people allowed to live in those facilities, but Dailey was hoping it could be lifted temporarily in the emergency situation. “We were told the request was on the commissioner’s desk but that, like everyone else, she was busy with the storm emergencies,” Dailey says. With no response from the agency the day after the hurricane, Daytop was forced to release 150 court-mandated clients who’d pleaded guilty to drug-related crimes. “We had to sign every one of them out before they were ready,” Dailey says. “The facility was uninhabitable. And OASAS wouldn’t let us transport them in our own vans to our upstate facilities.”

Disaster awaited those who were released out into the hurricane-distraught section of Queens. “Most of them wandered aimlessly,” Dailey says. “Many had burned bridges at home. Their only friends were active drug abusers. They had no jobs, no money, no shelter, no meds.” On Thursday afternoon, Daytop turned an outreach center on Staten Island into a shelter, but it was not until Friday—four days after the storm—that OASAS issued a temporary operating certificate for one of Daytop’s other facilities. The agency, however, says that Daytop did not need its permission to evacuate. “Daytop as a licensed treatment provider is responsible for the care of their clients, especially during an evacuation due to a natural disaster,” OASAS said in statement. “On November 1, Daytop sought necessary licensing approvals from OASAS to both reopen a closed facility, Millbrook, and to increase the treatment capacity at another facility, Swan Lake. Both requests were approved within 24 hours." Dailey claims the request was made earlier and it took the agency four days to grant the approvals.

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