Is opening a drug rehab in the City of Niagara Falls a catch 22? Mayor Paul Dyster says it can be.
“The public perception is something that we're very attune to and there seems to be some nervousness that attaches to this facility going into a residential neighborhood,” said Dyster.
But Northpointe Council, Inc. says it is moving forward with plans to open a methadone clinic on 6th Street to help people addicted to heroin and other opioids get clean.
“You often think of addiction and you think of the street person that maybe has a needle stuck in his arm,” said Daniel Shubsda. But Shubsda says the people his clinic treats transcend the stereotypes.
“About 50 to 60 percent are our clients that are addicted to opioids which they obtained through regular prescriptions through their doctor,” he said.
Northpointe’s plan to open on 6th Street still needs the city's approval, not only to move into the building, which is zoned for medical use, but also for special permission to use the parking lot across the street.
"Our service works primarily just like a doctors outpatient service where clients will come in, they're scheduled for their appointment, they come in and see the counselor or the therapist.”
The city says it worked hard to rid the 6th Street neighborhood of crime and drugs and invested in new housing options across the street from the site of the proposed methadone clinic. City officials fear the stigma of a clinic might scare people away from moving in.
Northpointe currently has a clinic in Niagara County and this expansion would allow them to treat about 250 patients in total.
Mayor Dyster made it clear, he is aware of the need to help end the heroin epidemic and is not trying to persuade any planning or zoning decisions.
The city suggested an alternative site on Buffalo Avenue, but Northpointe said it didn’t meet their needs.