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Another Voice: Fear hampers substance abuse treatment

By Joe McDonald

It seems every day we see another story about the devastating opiate crisis plaguing our community. To deal with this crisis responsibly, it’s time to remove the fear associated with substance abuse treatment centers, including those that offer methadone and other medication-assisted treatment.

Drug and alcohol addiction is not an isolated problem. It touches the lives of all too many families, affecting people of all ages, from all walks of life.

Catholic Health’s decision to relocate a substance abuse treatment center three-tenths of a mile from its current location in Amherst, and add medication-assisted treatment, is a positive step for the community and the patients it will serve.

Some have branded the site a “methadone clinic” and worry it will attract crime, but there is simply no evidence to justify this fear.

Today’s methadone patients don’t fit outdated stereotypes and the treatment model we offer is an industry best practice.

In addition to methadone, the new Sisters Amherst Health Center will offer counseling, treatment services and primary care, all under one roof. This holistic approach to care – treating patients’ medical needs, as well as their addiction – gives them the best chance at leading healthy, productive lives.

The location at 910 Millersport Highway is zoned commercial property facing a busy five-lane roadway. The back of the building, which will look like any medical office, borders a row of homes on North Ivyhurst. We installed a privacy fence to prevent traffic from exiting the building’s parking lot onto North Ivyhurst.

With this, and other improvements we will make, the neighbors should actually experience less disruption on their street than when the site was an auto parts store.

We recognize, however, it’s not the appearance of the building that has neighbors concerned. They are worried about safety and security around the site. For those unfamiliar with these types of treatment centers, they are highly regulated by the state Department of Health and Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services.

To ensure safety, regulations include onsite security, treatment by appointment only and a strict no-loitering policy.

Sisters Hospital and its dedicated staff of counselors and addiction specialists have been providing safe and secure substance abuse treatment services in Amherst, without incident, for nearly three decades – first on Harlem Road beginning in 1988, and then at our present location on Sheridan Drive since 2006. As always, we intend to be good neighbors and responsive to the needs of the community.

Catholic Health has a long-standing mission to serve those in need, and we cannot turn our backs on this crisis or those who are suffering.
Thankfully, the one thing we can all agree on is the need for this specialized care to serve the residents of Amherst.

Joe McDonald is president and CEO of Catholic Health.

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