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Neighbors remain opposed to state-approved methadone clinic

New York State has approved a new methadone clinic on Buffalo's lower West Side, but residents of the neighborhood are upset and have planned a rally for Friday afternoon.Hispanics United has received a one-year conditional certificate to run the program at its facility on 254 Virginia Street near Whitney Place. Executive Director Gino Russi says he has heard concerns about the clinic many times, but says the ongoing heroin epidemic is a real issue.

"People are dying every day. We can't allow that to happen. That's why we pushed as hard as we pushed to open up this clinic," Russi told WBFO.

Residents in the area say the drug treatment program is not appropriate for a residential neighborhood. The rally is planned for 4:30 p.m. Friday outside the building. Officials with the city and the county have expressed their disapproval of the site in recent weeks, including Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.

Russi says studies show methadone lowers the crime rate because it keeps people from stealing to pay for illegal drugs.

"When people are on heroin and they have no way of getting money for the drug, they turn to crimes that eventually transform into ready cash," Russi says.

Russi says surveillance cameras are in place and security will patrol the neighborhood to keep people from hanging out around the neighborhood near the clinic.

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