NIAGARA FALLS – Northpointe Council’s methadone clinic has been the center of controversy over the past half year as the nonprofit clinic anticipated a move to a larger site.
With heroin addiction and overdose deaths at an all-time high, the clinic had planned to move from its current location in the Niagara County Trott Access Center on 11th Street to a site at 606 Sixth St., which would allow it to double the amount of clients it serves.
Northpointe had been planning the move to the former Board of Education Building since 2014 and had signed a lease with owner Ellicott Development, but as plans were being finalized, residents and city leaders began to fight the move saying it did not fit plans for the neighborhood.
“Why don’t they just stay put and expand where they are?” said a number of residents at Common Council meetings.
It now appears they may do just that.
Daniel J. Shubsda, Northpointe president and chief executive officer, as well as Niagara County Legislator Dennis Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, and County Manager Richard E. Updegrove have confirmed they are discussing plans that would allow Northpointe to enlarge its footprint in the county-owned building from 3,800 square feet to 10,000 square feet, matching the size Northpointe had planned to occupy in the first floor at 606 Sixth St.
“We are trying to keep them at Trott and give them the additional space they need,” said Virtuoso.”We are sitting down and making plans. We are talking.”
Shubsda said Northpointe had tried a few times to remain at Trott.
“I had approached the county way back,” said Shubsda of a plan to remain in Trott. “We couldn’t work anything out with them.”
Northpointe took the methadone clinic over from the county in 2009 with oversight from the federal Drug Enforcement Agency.
Discussions in 2013 to expand were rejected by the county, said Shubsda. He said Northpointe tried again earlier this year. But now the county appears to be willing to work with them on a floor plan that would meet federal and state guidelines.
He said needed parking is also being addressed in their negotiations.
Updegrove said they have an alternative, suitable space to move the Trott Acccess Childcare Center, now located in Trott.
Shubsda said that would be a win-win, because Northpointe could take over the childcare center spot and the probation office could expand into Northpointe’s existing space.
Updegrove said they have discussed some preliminary floor plans.
The City Council and administration have repeatedly stressed they prefer to move an Orleans/Niagara Board of Cooperative Educational Services medical training center to 606 Sixth St. instead of moving the methadone clinic, said Shubsda.
Shubsda said they have 125 to 130 clients, with a waiting list of 150 clients.
As the move to Sixth Street was delayed, six clients have died.
“The state is concerned about addressing the people on the waiting list,” said Shubsda. “Whatever we can work out quickly will be ideal.”
He added, “If you don’t address the drug problem, you are not going to have a safe city.”