City beseeches state for help with opioid epidemic

Submitted Photo. Dunkirk Mayor Willie Rosas sits down with Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Arlene Gonzales-Sanchez to discuss the opioid epidemic.

The opioid situation has become an epidemic, not just affecting individuals, but the Dunkirk and Chautauqua County community as a whole.

In an effort to protect citizens from the deadly effects opioids pose, Dunkirk Mayor Willie Rosas reached out to the state for help.

Last month, while in Albany at the Somos Conference, Rosas attended a session on the impact of opioids in communities, presented by Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Arlene Gonzales-Sanchez.

At that time, he invited her to come to Dunkirk to become familiar with the challenges this part of the state faces.

“This was the commissioner’s first time in Chautauqua County. It was the result of a trip I made to Albany last month where I invited her and she took me up on it. I was very impressed with the fact that she came out,” Rosas told the OBSERVER of her visit on Monday.

Gonzales-Sanchez was given a tour of the city, where she admired the waterfront, before sitting down for a discussion with Rosas about funding for an opioid treatment clinic.

“I think we have somebody (in Albany) who now understands the city of Dunkirk and our issues and I’m hoping that she will agree to fund this project to bring an opioid clinic here,” he added.

Later, she met with a group of stakeholders at a roundtable discussion. Many local officials and city residents attended that meeting, including the superintendents of Dunkirk and Silver Creek schools, Police Chief Dave Ortolano, Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Lt. James Quattrone, County Executive Vince Horrigan, Patricia Brinkman of the Chautauqua County office of Mental Hygiene and Lori Cornell with the governor’s office.

“We had plenty of people there; all of them spoke in support. I think that people are acknowledging the fact that this is an epidemic and we do need to do something. Just this weekend, we had a death. … I know some of the family members and it’s affecting us here at home,” Rosas said.

During the meeting, Ortolano told the commissioner, “This community needs a comprehensive rehabilitation program that is in place 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is available when the need arises. Not having this program in place is unacceptable. The addiction to opioids has a direct effect on the quality of life issues in the entire community.”

Rosas added, “I have received plenty of phone calls, asking me to push forward with that center. There’s a strong need for it. There’s a lack of services here for the opioid issue. This is an addiction, it’s a sickness and it’s become an epidemic and people are dying.”

He also noted the nationally recognized program, Hispanos Unidos of Buffalo, that has proposed a clinic in Dunkirk has looked at two sites in the city, one being the Flickinger building on the 200 block of Washington Avenue. Rosas said securing funding is the first priority and finding a location will follow. There will also be public input to for site selection if funds are granted.