The deadly opioid epidemic has ravaged America’s suburbs and rural areas, places once thought immune to such serious drug problems.
In response, health officials are reaching out to offer assistance to those fighting addiction. Part of the strategy is placing treatment clinics where needed so they are readily accessible for those who are trying to wean themselves off drugs.
Catholic Health System’s plan to open a treatment clinic is a wonderful idea in the wrong location – 900 Millersport Highway at the edge of a residential area in Eggertsville. It needs to choose another, less-residential location.
Residents and town officials do not dispute the need for a clinic. Everyone who reads about the steadily rising toll of opioid addiction in Erie County – including seven in one 24-hour period in March – should recognize the need for more treatment options.
Catholic Health already has a clinic on Sheridan Drive near Millersport that provides drug and alcohol counseling services. That facility assists between 25 and 30 patients a day, but does not dispense medications. The new clinic would expand services to offer methadone, Suboxone and other medications used to treat narcotic dependency. Catholic Health officials have indicated that the new site might serve a total of 50 combined counseling and medication-assisted patients on a daily basis. It would be open seven days a week.
Methadone clinics have drawn criticism when placed in or near residential neighborhoods, although usually in urban settings. Residents worry that the clinics will draw unsavory characters who might prey upon addicts or neighbors. Another worry is that a methadone clinic might adversely affect property values.
To counter those criticisms, Catholic Health says the new clinic would include security services. Medication would be given to patients during specific treatment windows as a method to discourage loitering.
Still, North Ivyhurst residents who attended a recent Town Board meeting voiced their frustrations. One resident pointed out the location’s proximity to a nearby park and complained that neighbors were kept in the dark about plans for the site.
Amherst Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein and Police Chief John C. Askey have said that the site of the methadone clinic is inappropriate. The police chief said that another methadone clinic in the town has been problematic, including drug dealing in the parking lot.
The chief did not dispute the need for a clinic in the community – just not where it is being planned. Weinstein, himself a physician, said he met with Catholic Health officials in February but said they did not share details about the clinic’s purpose. He requested a Catholic Health official to consider moving the clinic to a less-residential site in Amherst.
We agree. Rather than getting caught in a protracted battle over this location, Catholic Health should begin the process of identifying a more appropriate location. The sooner that happens, the sooner much-needed treatment can begin.
Dealing with America’s opioid epidemic necessitates treatment clinics where they are needed, but there must be some consideration to how they affect neighborhoods.