Methadone Clinic Approval Raises More Questions Than Answers
The recent decision by the NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) to grant Hispanics United of Buffalo (HUB) a conditional license to distribute methadone has raised more questions than answers.
Considering the controversy surrounding HUB's seemingly deliberate deception of the community regarding its decision to convert the facility into a methadone clinic, any sensible person may wonder why OASAS proceeded to grant HUB its Operating Certificate. What's even more perplexing is that OASAS cites the "more than 60 community meetings" HUB purportedly held as a cause for granting the Operating Certificate, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Further, a number of elected officials, including the entire body of the Buffalo Common Council, as well as the Erie County Department of Health, have expressed their opposition to the methadone clinic's opening at this particular location.
How did HUB manage to outmaneuver a number of powerful elected officials and overwhelming community opposition?
Follow The Money
A sign affixed near the entrance of HUB's Virginia Street location announces that Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds are being used to make "public facilities improvements" at the site. Prominently displayed across the center of the sign: "Hon. Byron W. Brown - Mayor". Throughout this fiasco, several sources familiar with the matter have alleged that $137,000 in CDBG funds were used to convert HUB into a methadone clinic. This new sign only lends further credence to their allegation.
If true, how exactly did HUB get a hold of such an exorbitant amount of federal funds to outfit its facility to the tune of $137,000, despite other community agencies having their CDBG funds cut at a rate of 8% annually? Well, it just so happens that David Rodriguez, who was appointed by the mayor as General Counsel for the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority, is also the new president of HUB and presided over the implementation of the methadone clinic. What's fascinating about these funds being granted is that there were presumably no assurances that HUB would receive approval to operate as a methadone clinic. Yet, the city rolled the dice and took the gamble anyway.
Considering that HUB is the recipient of $137,000 in CDBG funds controlled by the city, does Mr. David Rodriguez' dual role as General Counsel for BMHA and HUB's board president present a conflict of interest? The answer to that question may shed some light to how the approval process was handled.
What are the facts?*
- Fact: The Erie County Legislature and Buffalo Common Council have resolutions which state this clinic should not be located here.
- Fact: Erie County Mental Health Commissioner withdrew his support of his clinic, calling the location "wholly unsuitable."
- Fact: Take home doses of methadone (which will be distributed by HUB) can be sold and/or used to get high. They have high resale value and can be unsafe, leading to overdose if combined with other drugs.
- Fact: HUB and their parent companies have routinely failed to notify or educate the community about their plans
- Fact: According to the Federal Guidelines for Opioid treatment, community outreach, input and stigma reduction is “a necessary operational element”, and the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration's approved Opioid Treatment Program accrediting organizations REQUIRE that “Medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction providers demonstrate effective community relations and stigma-reduction efforts.” HUB/Promesa claims they have done extensive community outreach, including holding 60 community meetings, but community members were not informed of these meetings.
- Fact: The clinic application was filed by a Bronx-based agency and the state approval was issued to a Bronx-based agency. A Bronx-based agency will administer the clinic and be responsible for the clinic. HUB, the local agency, is merely a landlord collecting rent from a tenant. Because PROMESA in the Bronx is designated by the State as the agency of record, HUB legally cannot do anything to operate the clinic or make any decisions regarding the operation.
*Facts compiled by the VETTE Block Club.