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NEW PROGRAM FOR DRUG ABUSERS PUT ON HOLD AREA COMPLAINTS SPUR COUNTY TO RECONSIDER PLAN FOR JOB COUNSELORS

An attempt to establish a new counseling program for drug abusers in a Main Street building was temporarily halted Thursday.

James Kulbacki, training director for the Erie County Department of Social Services, is seeking approval of a $348,648 plan to hire eight people to conduct seminars on how to obtain and keep jobs.

He said the program would be based at 1280 Main St. at Bryant Street, where Erie County Medical Center also leases space for drug-abuse programs.

Residents are upset by the proliferation of such agencies in their neighborhood.

Kulbacki estimated the caseload for the medical center program at 1,100, of which 600 are on welfare. The jobs program, which features six-week seminars, would target these clients.

Legislator George Holt, chairman of the Social Services Committee, said the request should go before a human services siting committee that is still being organized.

The panel is the result of protests by Linwood Avenue and Allentown residents who say their neighborhoods are becoming social-agency ghettos.

"They are now oversaturated," said Majority Leader Edward J. Kuwick, D-Lackawanna.

Kuwick, chairman of the Public Service Committee, tried this week to halt the placement of 50 people released early from jail in counseling at 1280 Main St., only to learn that the county Probation Department already has 28 of them at the site.

Sixty-four agencies operate from 60 different addresses in the Allentown-Linwood areas, residents say.

Linwood Avenue block-club members say clients of 1280 Main congregate at the corner, sometimes accost passers-by and block the sidewalks with cars.

"It's a major issue in that area," said Holt, D-Buffalo.

Teaching welfare recipients to find jobs will become increasingly crucial, especially in light of Gov. Pataki's proposed welfare cuts, Social Services Commissioner Deborah A. Merrifield said.

Besides substance abusers under treatment by Erie County Medical Center personnel, the center also provides meeting areas for 700 to 800 in self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

A medical center spokesman said the self-help groups will be urged to find other meeting places.

Holt also tabled proposals that would transfer $393,997 to more than a dozen East Side and West Side youth-service agencies and send $42,000 in grants to the Boys and Girls Club of Buffalo and the Polish Community Center.

Holt, who said he wanted to learn more about how grants to agencies are awarded, introduced a constituent who asked why his agency was left out of the grant awards.

Larry Stitts, director of the William-Emslie YMCA, said the "Y" serves 200 to 300 children daily and makes its sports facilities available to the juveniles in the Erie County Detention Home on East Ferry Street.

"If I can provide services for those in trouble, why cannot I provide services before they get in trouble?" Stitts asked. "When it comes to getting something to help pay the bills, we're excluded."

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