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ECMC needs to keep addiction clinics open

I am writing in response to The News article, "Lawmakers battle today's opiate epidemic," and the possible closing of Erie County Medical Center Addiction Outpatient Clinics. As I read the article, I felt sick and heartbroken for Michael Israel and his family. I admire his family's courage in fighting for others as a result of their own tragedy.

I am a former client of the Downtown Clinic, sober for 20 years. Part of addiction is being unable to ask for help. For most of us, needing help is indicative of weakness, shame and failure. To muster the courage to seek help and hear it is unavailable could be a death sentence. The feelings of hopelessness and isolation I felt at the end of my active addiction are, even now, impossible to describe.

If the clinics close, 600 clients will be displaced. Those without insurance may not have options, and a delayed option is no option. Addiction is a ruthless disease. Anyone can be affected. I fear most for those like me; the hopeless, unemployable and uninsured.

When I called the Downtown Clinic I was seen within 48 hours. I was evaluated and given the help I needed to begin a new life. Had I been told that help was unavailable for weeks, I don't believe I could have held on. It terrifies me to think what would have happened to me.

William Burgin, executive director of Alcohol and Drug Dependency Services, said there is a need for more drug treatment services in Western New York. But the reverse appears to be happening. How can this be? When I first considered writing, I thought, "No, I can't, everyone will know." Within minutes, I knew how wrong and selfish that was. Now, I am asking the ECMC board of directors to do the right thing. Time is of the essence.

Christine A. Maye-Lord



Eat locally grown food to help prevent illness

We all hear that we should eat local. We hear that it will help us be green, that it will help keep money in the local community and that it will help us eat fresh and seasonal -- all admirable reasons to eat local. But eating local can also keep you from getting sick. A strong statement, I know. But by eating local, we have the opportunity to understand the origin of our food. This is important, especially when there is a deadly listeria outbreak and you cannot be quite sure where that cantaloupe in the back of your fridge came from.

The recent listeria outbreak from Colorado cantaloupe reached 10 states and killed at least 13 people. As with any national crisis, it has spurred talk about fixing the problem. Some say the problem is a lack of food safety laws or their effectiveness. Others claim the problem is an excess of food safety laws. An easy solution is to eat local.

If more people ate local and food systems were smaller, the listeria outbreak wouldn't have been a national problem. It would have been confined to Colorado. The national food system can have deadly effects when one packaging plant or crop is contaminated and sold across the country. Instead, we can have smaller food chains. By reducing the distance that food is distributed, we can reduce food-borne illnesses spreading far afield. Additionally, during a recall event we will have the capacity to ship in uncontaminated food from another state.

If you eat local, chances are you need not ask where that cantaloupe in the back of your fridge came from.

Patrick T. Gooch



Let's think positively about our community

In the words of Van Miller, "Now do you believe?"

Why is it that when complete strangers tell us something, it's often viewed more openly and more favorably and without objection than when we hear the same information from those closest to us? I suppose it's only human nature.

Last week, the National Trust for Historic Preservation held its conference here in Western New York. Is there anyone reading this unaware of that fact? The media coverage was extraordinary. And rightly so. It's a story worth telling. Now it's time for us Buffalonians and Western New Yorkers to acknowledge what others around us have said loud and clear. This is a place worthy of significant, national attention. I think we need to do a community version of "Daily Affirmations" with Stuart Smalley (Al Franken), "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!"

Countless individuals and organizations -- including all those who have designed, built, preserved and maintained our buildings, landscapes and heritage -- came together to welcome outsiders and many from within our own community to celebrate our past and dream about and hope for our future. A huge, heartfelt thank you to all.

So let's think positively about our community and believe in ourselves, let's promote ourselves to each other and outsiders, let's attract businesses here and improve our schools and social services for the good of our community, and let's continue to work together and celebrate all that we have. We will accomplish extraordinary things if we do.

Steven Weiss

Board Chairman

Preservation Buffalo Niagara


Dedicated Oracle staff is doing a difficult job

To contrast Shakespeare, I come not to bury Oracle, but to praise it. I read the My View by John Ashwood, principal of Oracle Charter School, and the follow-up letter by a former teacher. I, too, was a short-term member of the faculty at Oracle, and can attest to what she was speaking of. I feel that teaching there was the most significant challenge of my educational career, and one that would give anyone pause and reason to look for alternate employment. The day-to-day difficulties are extreme.

However, I want to state publicly that I have never worked with a group of educators so determined and self-sacrificing as those at Oracle, who work with such a difficult population of students. Those children come from backgrounds that I cannot even fathom having to come from, and it shows in the challenges of simply trying to keep control of a class.

Yet those teachers, administrators and staff come in day after day and try to accomplish something positive in the face of such difficulty, and I respect each and every one of them for their efforts. I know what they have to do, and frankly, could not hold a candle to their attempts to make a difference. I don't know how they are able to teach academics and life-changing skills and do it with smiles in the face of sheer exhaustion -- and maintain their own families to boot.

With staff as dedicated as the ones who have been there for years, change will come. It's a slow process and some (like me) cannot do what must be done there, but it must be done nonetheless. So I hope Oracle can survive, can thrive and can watch its alumni come back years later to say, "thank you."

Scott Schaefer