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Community Center Promotes New Drug Abuse Director

Counseling will now be offered in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

The Five Towns Community Center’s new Committee on Drug Abuse (CODA) director, Dennis Demuth, brings 31 years of detox experience and a desire to share the tools of change to his new position.

Demuth said he enjoys it “when you’re in a position where you can help people and give them information tools that they can use to make a better life.” He added, “It’s kind of nice when someone gets that a-ha moment and can make that change happen in their life.”

The community center promoted Demuth, who was a counselor, at the end of December.

“There is so much abuse of alcohol and drugs around,” Demuth said, adding that patients come from Far Rockaway and the Five Towns. Many patients are mandated by court order to seek treatment. If the CODA program were not offered at the community center, patients would have to seek treatment in Valley Stream or Oceanside.

Substance abuse counseling uses cognitive behavioral therapy, Demuth said, which gives patients the tools and coping skills that can help them change their thinking and behaviors. Each patient is asked to create a “decisional balance” — looking at both possible positive and negative outcomes and asking themselves which would be the most desired consequence.

Recently, the community center started offering anger management and parenting classes for people who think they need it or for those that are ordered to by courts.

Demuth moved to Long Island from Portland, Maine, in June 2010 to be close to his wife’s family. In Portland, he worked for Catholic Charities of Maine Counseling Services for 14 years. He was also a treatment consultant for federal treatment court and a team member of the Cumberland County Drug Court Program, both in Portland, Maine.

He received his master’s degree in social work from the University of New England in 2000 and his bachelor’s in social work from the University of Southern Maine. Before receiving his bachelor’s, he had been a detox nurse at a hospital in Massachusetts since 1981.

The other new member of the CODA team is substance abuse counselor Robert Torre, who began his career as a medical doctor in Guatemala working with detox patients. Torre brings 24 years of detox experience to this position, and is fluent in Portuguese, Spanish and English.

Torre said he worked in the Peninsula Counseling Center eight years ago when it occupied CODA’s current location. 

“I used to run two groups of 15 Spanish-speaking people a week,” he noted. He said they haven’t had a Spanish-speaking counselor since and the area needs it.

“It’s great working here,” he said. “I’m looking forward to working with the Latino population.”

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