Sunset Park rehab facility in the spotlight

To stress the importance of generating funds for facilities that help individuals deal with substance abuse, Assemblymember Pam Harris joined New York State Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle in a tour of Sunset Park’s Resource Training and Counseling Center (RTCC), 482 39th Street, on Thursday, September 8 .

“We talk about housing issues, illegal conversion issues. Those are absolutely big problems,” Harris said. “But one of our biggest issues is unforeseen because you never know that people are addicted unless you come to places like this.”

RTCC was founded by Donna Mae DePola in 1994, and Harris said that she was impressed with DePola’s dedication. “Donna has got a great thing going here because she’s not only taking care of the addiction, she’s actually training those that were addicted,” she said.

The RTCC offers training for becoming credentialed drug counselors (CASAC), a vital program for the community and those who are addicts. “The one thing that this program does is that if you were in rehabilitation, if you were a drug addict and you are clean and you go for it, the city pays for it,” Harris said.

It takes four months to complete daytime training and 11 months for students in evening classes.

The program is a win-win, said Harris. “One, it’s keeping you in a safe place and a facility that you’ve gotten clean in,” she said. “Two, it’s giving you work. Three, you’re now able to take what you’ve learned and pass it on.”


It was also a personal visit for Morelle. “I have family members struggling with addiction,” he said. “So I’m anxious to talk to people in the field to find out what’s going on in the various communities around the state.”

Morelle also stressed the importance of addressing the growing opiate problem. “Pam and I and others in the legislature did a lot of work together this year on that front,” Morelle said. “There’s no question that, with the growing number of deaths and the addiction numbers, we are going to continue to put more resources into treatment programs whether inpatient, outpatient, transitional or housing.”

Both Harris and Morelle were impressed by the dedication of staff at the facility.

“I was struck by how committed and dedicated this staff clearly seems to be,” Morelle said. “You get it almost immediately when you walk through the door.”

Ann Marie Perrotto of RTCC lost her son Christopher in 2011 to a prescription pill overdose. He was 22 years old. “He got into a minor car accident and the doctor started prescribing painkillers and he was addicted within five days. He went from five pills a day to 25,” she said.

According to Perrotto, RTCC gave her an opportunity to make a difference for other addicts. “It made me want to come here and help others,” she said. “I spoke with Donna and saw what she could bring to help everyone. We offer a helping hand. No matter how many times you relapse, we’re going to be here for you. Recovery is a lifetime, and we’re going to be there and have counselors for you and a place for you to stay in recovery.”

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