Catholic Health officially gave up Monday and told residents of a small Amherst neighborhood there would not be a drug treatment clinic next door. The new plan is to shift to an office park in Audubon.
Residents on North Ivyhurst Road opposed a plan to put the clinic at 910 Millersport Highway. They were backed by the Amherst Town Board and politicians from other levels of government in opposition to the site. The town wants to change zoning rules to restrict where drug treatment clinics can be located.
The new location on John Glenn Drive is a site town officials have said is suitable. Residents are hundreds of feet away. The new site also meets a specific Catholic Health requirement, that it have Metro Bus service for the 30 percent of patients who arrive on a bus.
North Ivyhurst resident Mark Pastenak says Catholic Health briefed neighbors on the new location during a meeting closed to media and politicians.
"People didn't understand that we're neighbors and we're concerned about our neighborhood and our property values," Pastenak said. "I've lost a close family member to this epidemic and it is an epidemic and these people need help."
Catholic Health said it is providing methadone treatment to more than 100 Amherst residents who now have to get their medication in Buffalo - that is seven days a week. Catholic Health COO Mark Sullivan said the treatment is really needed in a community with a skyrocketing fatal overdose total.
"The people that are receiving these services are on their way to work in the morning," Sullivan said. "They're lawyers, physicians, secretaries, stay-at-home moms, dads, bankers. They are just trying to start their lives over. We need to be committed to that service. It may not be the brightest and most popular service to offer, but as true citizens of Erie County, we must step forward. We're very grateful for the support from the Erie County Health Commissioner, Gale Burstein, who really understands this crisis as a physician."
The patients get doses of drugs, usually methadone, to reduce cravings. Dr. Paul Updike, director of substance services for Catholic Health, was asked about methadone treatment, which most patients receive and will for the rest of their lives.
"We wouldn't be saying that if you were a diabetic and say, 'You know what? Insulin is really good therapy, except for people never get off of it.' This is a misunderstanding, I think, of a number of things," Updike said. "First of all, what is the goal of therapy? Well, the goal of therapy is getting someone to start on a medication or treatment and for them to be stabilized, which is no longer using opiates in this case and all the devastation that's associated with it."