Faces of Long Island celebrates the uniqueness of everyday Long Islanders. In their own words, they tell us about their life experiences, challenges and triumphs. Newsday launched this social media journey into the human experience to shine a light on the diverse people of this wonderful place we call home.

‘I was drawn to pursue medicine to alleviate the suffering that others experience, and it has been a tremendous source of meaning to be able to be part of a process in which people heal.’

Dr. Harshal Kirane, Calverton

“I was drawn to pursue medicine to alleviate the suffering that others experience, and it has been a tremendous source of meaning to be able to be part of a process in which people heal. I was always struck how people with substance issues were misunderstood, stigmatized or viewed as a caricature by the community at large and by medical providers. As I started to encounter people who specialized in treating addictions, I understood it as a complex yet treatable disease.

“I’m medical director at Wellbridge, an addiction treatment center in Calverton with collaboration between scientists and clinicians. Most medical schools have less than two hours of addiction-focused training in four years of medical training. Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, where I’m an associate professor of psychiatry, is expanding the amount of addiction-focused training to 40 hours. That goes a really long way. One of the primary areas of how to manage addictions, is teaching people how to communicate effectively and utilize their skills. That can change their behaviors and instill more hope that they can decrease the use of drugs and alcohol and lead to an array of healthy habits and coping skills.

Addiction itself is a complex disease that’s often marked by shame, embarrassment and denial and that can often make it challenging for someone struggling to be receptive to care and support. To be able to navigate that process requires a relationship with trust and safety.

“At Wellbridge, we have a resident addiction treatment program and a center for addiction science with lots of research activities that work very closely with our clinical activities. A close marriage between science and clinical care is a very well-established playbook from other areas of medicines, like oncology and cardiology. But there have been barriers to transition this work into the addiction arena. Very often, people struggling with addiction say their experiences in general medical settings have been really difficult.

“Addiction itself is a complex disease that’s often marked by shame, embarrassment and denial and that can often make it challenging for someone struggling to be receptive to care and support. To be able to navigate that process requires a relationship with trust and safety. Addiction is a treatable condition and the first and critical step is to reach out for support.”