Sisters Hospital is preparing to evict the Community Action Organization methadone treatment program from its Main Street campus, the second hospital to kick out the program this year.
Unless DART (the Drug Abuse Rehabilitation Treatment program) finds a new home soon, 135 heroin addicts again face the prospect of losing counseling or medication.
"DART has been like a distant cousin who visits for a few days but then moves in and stays. Well, it's time to move on," said Dennis McCarthy, a hospital spokesman.
DART's problems began February 1989, when Buffalo General Hospital refused to renew its lease. The clinic had leased space from the hospital since 1975.
The Community Action Organization broke a series of deadlines in an unsuccessful attempt to relocate the clinic. The matter eventually took on a confrontational tone, with Buffalo General officials saying they were exasperated with the community group.
The hospital removed the program early this year, and Sisters, at the state's request, agreed to help DART on the condition it find its own building in two months.
On Sept. 27, after five extensions, Sisters officials said DART had disrupted the hospital's own methadone program for 225 addicts and gave the clinic 60 days to leave. The hospital said there was not enough room for both programs. It also offered to accept DART clients into its program.
"We gave them a safe haven. But both parties understood it was a temporary agreement, and they have abused that agreement," McCarthy said.
Community Action Organization officials were unavailable to comment.
However, Lee A. Albert, the attorney representing the community group, told the hospital in a Nov. 26 letter that termination of DART services, with Sisters acting as a substitute provider, would not solve the space problem and lead to Sisters receiving the Medicaid payments that now go to DART.
"Let me conclude by observing that the CAO does not wish to engage in protracted judicial or administrative proceedings," Albert wrote after reviewing a host of legal obstacles the hospital could face.
The community group found a clinic site a year ago, but its approval by state agencies has been delayed, according to Albert. Meanwhile, he wrote, DART is seeking a temporary location.