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Council opposes expansion of West Side methadone clinic

Mike Desmond/wbfo news

Buffalo Common Council members aren't happy about plans for a major expansion of the drug treatment program in Hispanics United on Virginia Street.

It's a program bitterly fought two years ago when it was started. Now, a boom in business reflects the booming opioid problem.

Council members say it isn't just the location in a residential neighborhood but that drug treatment ought to be in a more medical situation. Neighbors say they are seeing a fallout in drug dealing and hypodermic needles turning up near their homes.

"I looked at the zip codes where the people that were being serviced were from. Most of the people that are being serviced were Orchard Park, West Seneca," said Councilmember David Rivera, who spent many years as a police officer on the Narcotics Unit.

"They don't want it in Orchard Park and West Seneca. We don't want it on the West Side and we don't want it in lower parts of the West Side. But yet the problems continue and it's not going to go away."

Opening the center was the subject of a major fight two years ago, but Albany can override any objections and issue operating licenses. While some council members say the project should be in a more medical setting, Council President Darius Pridgen says too many agencies are jammed into the area.

"My fear is of the over-saturation, not just the existence," said Pridgen. "I don't want anybody to think this Council is saying, we don't understand the issues. However, in understanding the issues, we have to be careful."

Pridgen cited the number of agencies centered on Main and Utica streets as another example of over-concentration.

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.