BUFFALO, N.Y. — New York State and Erie County health officials continue to stress the growing need for substance abuse treatment services. But a state decision to place a treatment clinic in Buffalo's University District is drawing criticism from neighbors and some at City Hall.
For some University District residents, there is a common feeling about the idea of the Hopewell Center opioid treatment facility setting up shop in a former medical space at the Cleveland Hill retail plaza on Kensington Avenue.
Paula Moses, who is with the University District Block Club Coalition, told 2 on Your Side that, "We want people to get help. We want people to be able to succeed. Our position is that we don't think that it's a good fit here, due to the affect that it will have on our lifestyle. We don't have anything against people getting help. It's the type of treatment that goes along with reaching out to them that can affect us negatively."
Shekinah Powers, another University District resident, added: "We were informed May 5 and June 2 that this clinic was going to be installed here, and we just hear contradictory after contradictory as far as the justification for putting it here."
Powers says she also heard from neighbors asking, "Is this going to be in my neighborhood? I'm worried, and they have children. Are my children going to be around people that come in and out of this clinic?"
Those neighbors raise issues such as more traffic and loitering at the plaza, and kids possibly being near clients with addiction issues.
A spokesman told 2 On Your Side that principal managers from Hopewell were out of town and unavailable for an interview. But he confirmed the facility will be leased through the Seneca Nation's investment Holdings branch with ties to the Indigenous Path health consulting firm, which also declined an interview.
That spokesman says there were outreach meetings with residents and that 24 interior and exterior cameras will be used to monitor the clinic and around it with 24/7 manned security.
The clinic plans a spring 2023 opening to initially treat 300 clients. But it is licensed for up to 600 by the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports Agency in Albany. That approval was based on a reference from the federal government.
Residents are now using a petition with one thousand signatures so far to call for a reversal.
"Especially in light of all that's been happening in our community, especially as it relates to African-Americans, we don't want it, they don't want it, and I'm standing with them to say, 'We want you to to rescind,' " Buffalo Common Councilmember Rasheed N.C. Wyatt of the University District said.
"From what we are hearing, Hopewell is looking to spend $2.6 million in the building, in a building that they don't own. So again, there's a sweet deal for the owner, but there's a raw deal for the community."
He added: "It should not be where the state can just make arbitrary decisions about a neighborhood that they have no connection with. We have been told this, we have been told that, but we have not been given the evidence."
2 On Your Side reached out to the Cleveland Hill Plaza's property management firm in Great Neck, New York, but they did not return the call.
And we contacted the NYS Office of Addiction Services and Support. We wanted to know if residents should have been consulted as part of the approval and siting process for the clinic plan.
We got this reply from that agency with a mention of the Seneca Nation status:
"This project was reviewed and approved consistent with NYS regulation as an entity that will have Federal Indian Health Service authority. Additionally, they are subject to federal approval from the CSAT (Center for Substance Abuse Treatment) and DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration). They did attest that they will meet the OASAS regulatory requirements."