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Poloncarz challenges Amherst to find acceptable site for methadone clinic

Catholic Health System is willing to consider another location for a planned substance abuse treatment clinic that has stirred opposition from neighbors in Amherst, Erie County officials said late Monday.

Catholic Health's plan calls for relocating a clinic that provides drug and alcohol counseling services from Sheridan Drive to 910 Millersport Highway. It would expand to provide patients with methadone, suboxone and other medication used to treat narcotics dependency, also known as "medical assistance treatment."

In a letter Monday to Amherst Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said Catholic Health is "willing and eager to work with the Town of Amherst to find a new location to provide these critical services, despite the significant financial loss they have incurred due to obstructionism at 910 Millersport Hwy."

[County Executive's Letter to Amherst Supervisor]

The clinic, operated by Catholic Health's STAR program, is proposed for a leased space in a former auto parts store on Millersport Highway.

The plan came to light in early April when North Ivyhurst Road residents publicly expressed concerns about the proximity of the proposed clinic to their neighborhood.

Poloncarz, in the letter, challenged the Town Board to find an acceptable alternative location by June 30.

"The Amherst STAR program's current lease at 3730 Sheridan Dr. expires at the end of August, and these critical services must be re-located before that time to ensure continuity of care for their patients," Poloncarz wrote.

Town officials have maintained they welcome a clinic needed to serve Amherst residents battling drug addiction, although not in the proposed location.

"What he's saying in effect is that we should find another location," Weinstein said of Poloncarz's letter. "That's what we've been advocating since the beginning. My other location is their present campus on Sheridan Drive."

Poloncarz said he has "watched with great dismay" as the town opposed locating the clinic on Millersport. Poloncarz noted that 34 Amherst residents have died from a fatal opioid overdose within the town limits since 2014 and hundreds were saved due to timely administration of the opioid reversal drug naloxone. In Erie County, 177 residents have died from suspected or confirmed opioid overdoses in the first five months of 2017, he said.

"That number will likely have increased by the time you read this letter," Poloncarz wrote.

In mid-April, the Town Board asked for a review of local zoning codes to potentially restrict where future clinics may be located.

Amherst Town Board calls for review of where drug treatment clinics can open

"Not only has the Town Board chosen to oppose this specific clinic, but steps are being taken to restrict placement of any additional MAT services within the Town of Amherst," he wrote. "I cannot think of a worse time for Amherst to take steps to limit access to lifesaving addictions treatment services."

Weinstein, a physician, said the town would work to identify other potential clinic locations and give Catholic Health some options.

"They're certainly welcome to come to Amherst. They're presently in Amherst now," he told The Buffalo News late Monday. "We want them to stay in Amherst. But we want them to have a suitable location."

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