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City residents voice concerns on lack of methadone clinic

OBSERVER Photo by Jo Ward. Mike Tramuta talks about the lack of a methadone clinic in the city at Dunkirk’s Common Council meeting Tuesday.

Many local residents voiced their concerns over the lack of a methadone clinic in the city at Dunkirk’s Common Council meeting Tuesday. Drug maintenance treatments require daily travel to Buffalo and with the onslaught of lake effect snow looming, those roads become treacherous, putting individuals in danger trying to get the help they need.

“There’s three reasons why I think that we need this particular clinic,” Mike Tramuta, a Dunkirk resident of over 70 years and counselor for over 35 stated. “The first reason is that with the fentanyl, it’s killing our children and people because it’s laced into heroin, it’s laced into cocaine, it’s laced into marijuana now.”

He spoke of a new drug making its way east from Thailand, called ‘Ya ba,’ Tramuta claims it to be 100 times stronger than heroin and is currently being reported in the Midwest.

“The second reason is that we have about 150 people from the Dunkirk/Fredonia area that have to go back and forth to Buffalo seven days a week, 365 days a year to get their methadone. That’s a six-hour trip, basically with that alone they can’t work, they have to find people to take care of their children. The third reason is that there is not another methadone clinic in Chautauqua County.”

Tramuta told a story of when he was a young counselor at a clinic in South Buffalo, they ran against what he claims to be similar issues as this clinic is facing now. He talked of a shooting in the front door, garbage dumped on their lawn, rocks thrown at the house as well as a number of attacks perpetrated on minorities. Within a year, however, the whole thing changed according to him, once people saw what they were trying to do. “Methadone is distributed in a little cup,” Tramuta added. “If there’s needles they’re from people that are sick, not people that are getting better.”

Residents from Fredonia also voiced their concern at the lack of a clinic. Mike Vinciguerra and Mary Grace Siracuse are both parents of children they lost to drugs.

“I can tell people of things that have happened, including the back-and-forth to Buffalo and what it takes everyday for a person to go there,” Vinciguerra said. “I’ve been to two clinics in Buffalo, I see no problems or any drug dealers around them. Around the clinics, the security is high.”

Vinciguerra talked about fighting addiction himself following a back operation. He also talked of the loss of two vehicles by his daughter due to inclement weather travel to get the treatments needed.

“We need a clinic in this area,” Vinciguerra added. “The end result was I lost a daughter to drugs, maybe if we’d had a clinic here, I might have still had a fighting chance, because she wouldn’t have had to travel.”

Siracuse spoke of her son, Pierce Blodgett, who died about two weeks after completing the Dunkirk Drug Court Program.

“I’m an advocate for a methadone clinic because methadone clinics work,” Siracuse said. “We’re losing young people by the scores. My son was a bright and beautiful soul, he graduated from the Salvation Army Drug Rehabilitation Program, he graduated from the City of Dunkirk Drug Program and then he went out on the street. Had he been out on maintenance, he might be alive today. The notion of people driving all the way, everyday from here to Buffalo is ludicrous.”

Siracuse recounted a story of a family she knew, where both parents were addicted to heroin, they left their three small children with a babysitter everyday and drove back and forth to get a dose of methadone. According to her they’re still alive today and they never used again; their daughters are college graduates, two of which have masters degrees.

“Methadone saves lives,” Siracuse added. “With regards to the safety and security around the facility, there’s plenty of people who need jobs, hire security.”

Dunkirk Mayor Wilfred Rosas had no information to offer on the clinic having not spoken to Hispanics United, the group building a clinic in the city, since the last Common Council meeting.

“They’ve looked at at least 15 different sites in the city,” Rosas told the OBSERVER following the meeting. “We’ve shown them some, but they’ve looked at some without us.”

Rosas pointed out that the methadone clinic is a private project and that the city doesn’t have much say in its planning.

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