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Neighborhood opposition to proposed West Side methadone clinic grows

Mike Desmond / WBFO

People living in the Virginia Street area of Buffalo's Lower West Side gathered at the Los Tainos Senior Center on Trenton Avenue Thursday night to fight a proposal to open a methadone clinic in their residential neighborhood.

The quietly-filed proposal calls for a drug counseling and methadone-dispensing clinic to open in the Hispanics United of Buffalo building on Virginia Street. Opponents say even though counseling has started, the permit for dispensing methadone has not yet been issued.  The Erie County Mental Health Department notified Albany on Wednesday of its opposition to the placement of the clinic.

Methadone is an addictive chemical often used to treat heroin addicts. It allows them to live a fairly normal life with little of the high of heroin.

The most vocal opponents to the placement of the clinic are from the V.E.T.T.E. Block Club, which covers the area of Virginia, Edward, Trinity, Tupper and Elmwood. President Celia White says it's a bad location.

"The planned hours of the clinic are 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. with counseling in the afternoon," said White. "Kids actually wait for their school buses on that corner. You may also know that there is a day care center in that. So, our feeling is not necessarily no methadone clinic anywhere. Our feeling is, that is not the right location, and that has been our position all around."

Hispanics United, whose building would house the clinic, is part of the Bronx-based Acacia Network, which filed the application. Opponents say the local group would be paid $8,000 a month in rent for housing the methadone operation. They believe a better location would be the former Columbus Hospital on Niagara Street, a couple of blocks away.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.