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Health professionals criticize opposition to Amherst methadone clinic

Posted at 6:42 PM, Apr 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-21 18:42:45-04

At a meeting Thursday called by the Erie County Legislature to evaluate the county's efforts to battle drug addiction, two health professionals called for the proposed methadone clinic in Amherst to be embraced by the community, rather than pushed away.

Anne Constantino is president of Horizon Health Services, a mental health and substance use treatment provider in Western New York. At the meeting, she called medication assisted treatments like methadone, Suboxone and others "the gold standard in treating people with opioid addiction".

And when asked by legislators how to expand those services if they're proving to be effective, she criticized the public opposition to a Catholic Health clinic that is relocating in Amherst.

Sisters of Charity Hospital is relocating its STAR Amherst outpatient chemical dependency treatment program from 3730 Sheridan Drive to 910 Millersport Highway.  The new center will be named Sisters Amherst Health Center.

"Can we talk about how we don't [increase treatments]?" Constantino asked. "We don't stand in the way of a reputable provider like Catholic Health trying to open up in Amherst."

Benjamin Swanekamp from the Erie County Department of Health echoed the sentiment and said there's an undeserved stigma associated with methadone clinics."

"Methadone is a scary word," he said Thursday at the Erie County Legislature meeting. "It's totally changed from the way it used to be. These clinics operate in very tight 15-minute windows. Patients are in and out. They're clean. They're well-maintained. It's not that different from a regular doctor's office."

Amherst Town Supervisor Barry Weinstein still doesn't want to see the clinic located in that neighborhood and wants to see Catholic Health expand at its current location.

"I think the location is very important," he said. "I think the services are certainly necessary but you really shouldn't have this adjacent to a residential neighborhood."

The town is looking at a proposal to amend the zoning code which could prevent future clinics from opening in residential neighborhoods. That will happen at a special session of the Town Board on Monday, April 24.

Catholic Health has not commented on the controversy, but plans to speak with concerned neighbors on Tuesday, May 2.