At the Aug. 26 Brookhaven Town meeting, the town board gave a status update for $55 million in federal funding the town is slated to receive or has already received, as per the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Also, residents affected by the nationwide opiate pandemic voiced their concerns to Brookhaven supervisor Ed Romaine and the board, after a resolution named Aug. 31, 2021 as International Overdose Prevention Day in the town of Brookhaven.
The meeting began with an a cappella rendition of “God Bless America” performed by Miss Senior New York, Laura Lorenzo. Then, Romaine announced that Aug. 31, 2021 will be a day to remember residents affected by opiate addiction, and the board would be designating it as International Overdose Prevention Day in a resolution to take place further into the meeting.
“We want to remember this day and we want to remember people that are afflicted by drug abuse. This is a day that our Town Hall will be decorated with purple,” he said.
But some community members took to the microphone during the public portion of the meeting and said the town should be doing more when it comes to addiction. Ten years ago, Dorothy Johnson lost her son to addiction. She now advocates for other families, and she was one of two Brookhaven residents that asked the board to be more proactive in regards to addiction education and treatment.
“We need to do more in Brookhaven,” said Johnson. “We need to knock on doors, because they’re doing it behind the closed doors and we need to talk about it.”
In a rare instance, Brookhaven town clerk Donna Lent also voiced her own concerns and said, “What they need is more treatment beds. They need a place to go when they ask for help.”
Romaine agreed that treatment beds are important and a solution for dealing with the addiction crisis, but that it’s usually Suffolk County’s purview to deal with anything related to health or addiction. However, Romaine vowed to work with other local municipalities to do more.
“I am willing to work with the county health clinics to aggressively diagnose, treat, and medicate to prevent this epidemic from spreading and give people hope that they can break the cycle of addiction,” he said.
Also at the meeting, the public got a status update about the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which provided $350 billion in emergency funding for eligible state and local governments. In June 2021, the town received $27.5 million, the first installment of a total of $55 million in funding it is slated to receive.
As per the U.S. Treasury Department, the spending plan had to fit into one of five categories: the money had to go toward supporting “public health expenditures; addressing negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency; replacing lost public sector revenue; providing premium pay for essential workers; or investing in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure, making necessary investments to improve access to clean drinking water.”
A town representative delineated the town’s spending. A chunk went toward COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, personal protective equipment, as well as a new building management system that will provide better ventilation. There were also projects like a $2 million public water project in a section of Manorville that was hit by drinking-water contamination, and a plan to replace Town Hall’s 40-year-old sewage treatment plant. Low-to-moderate income areas will see a share of the funding when the town makes updates to parks in those areas. Additionally, some of the money will go to replace lost revenue, and will be allocated toward capital projects like the resurfacing of roads and sidewalk improvements; the Treasury Department estimated that the town lost $17 million.
At the end of this month, town officials will be required to submit a full spending plan to the Treasury Department.