A clinic that would dispense drugs to heroin addicts planned for a residential neighborhood on the Lower West Side has faced opposition from Erie County, and now the state may follow suit.
The state agency that oversees facilities such as the methadone clinic that Acacia Network and Hispanics United of Buffalo is planning on Virginia Street is expected to write a letter to the organization stating that the certification process for the clinic has been suspended, according to Peter Anderson, spokesman for County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz.
The state is “very unlikely” to approve a clinic without the support of the county, Anderson said.
The state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services did not provide an update on the clinic Monday. On July 1, before the county stated its opposition, the agency said the application was under review.
Neighbors said the proposed methadone clinic caught them by surprise, and they are opposed to the proposed location at 254 Virginia St. They have successfully convinced Erie County and the Buffalo Common Council of their arguments, and officials from both entities have gone on record opposing the site. Neighbors are concerned that the clinic will bring problems to their neighborhood, including drug dealers who prey on methadone clients, and that the clients will line up for treatment in the morning near a school bus stop. They have worked to rid their neighborhood of drugs and gangs over the last 20 years and they do not want to see it slide again, they have said.
Acacia’s plans come as law enforcement and health officials report an increase in heroin abuse and other clinics in the county have waiting lists. Nearly a quarter of the county’s methadone needs are not fulfilled, the state found in a March 2013 study, mentioned in a letter written by the county’s Department of Mental Health commissioner, Ellery Reaves.
Neighbors said they would like to see the clinic placed in a more commercial area and have suggested locations on Niagara Street.
The clinic has been operating a drug treatment facility since it received certification to do so June 16, but it is not dispensing methadone, according to Acacia Network spokesman Matthew Scampoli. Current treatment includes evaluation, individual and group counseling.
Acacia said the public has been informed throughout the process, and that since 2012, 65 meetings were held, but neighbors have said they knew nothing of the proposed clinic until recently.
Common Council members said they were also surprised by the news, and last week adopted a resolution from Council President Darius G. Pridgen directing the city Law Department to write an ordinance requiring that the Council has a say in where new substance abuse treatment facilities are located.
Acacia Network representatives will meet with officials from the county’s Mental Health Department and Poloncarz’s office, Anderson said.
A group of neighbors are also planning to take their concerns about the project, and questions about how the decision was made to open the clinic on Virginia Street, to the state attorney general, whose office oversees charities and non-profit organizations, said West Tupper resident Thomas Gleed.