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Commentary: ‘Absurd’ actions delaying treatment

For those of you in the Dunkirk-Fredonia-Jamestown area who have read this column for two and a half years, I’m pretty positive that you’ve read my opinion on Methadone treatment and the clinic that we still don’t have. Three and a half years ago, OASAS (Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse) allotted money to UPMC and the City of Dunkirk for Methadone clinics. There has been no mention of this project by officials in the past six months. Is the money still available?

I’m completely sick of organizations like Hispanic United stating, “We are still looking for a site.” UPMC had everything set up in Dunkirk and we hear nothing. What is unbelievable is, that as I travel through western New York, I see many “satellite” clinics, some large, many small, helping sick people get better with Methadone. These clinics are in areas accessible to clients, some only a few miles from their homes.

In this county, years ago, we found a whole new way to distribute Methadone. My colleagues and myself have been “appalled” at the procedure followed by Chautauqua County’s substance abuse leaders, with Pat Brinkman in charge, that they would sanction the following procedure.

Some clients that are in treatment in outpatient, drug court or opioid court have to go back and forth to Buffalo daily to get a cup with two pills in it. They are transported by cars, taxis, buses at the expense of the county.

In the May 23-24 edition of the OBSERVER, Dr. Robert Berke, county physician, stated, “Having recovering people going back and forth to Buffalo is absolute nonsense. These clients are sitting, caught between a rock and a hard place. The Methadone clinics appear to be a dead issue. These clients have to blow off a half a day to get their medication and then return home, usually six hours daily. This system is completely dysfunctional and makes no sense.”

He further stated, ” It costs about $70 per day per client. This comes out to about $490 per week per client. The figures state that 70 to 80 clients per week use this system. If you add the numbers up, say for five years, it comes to millions of dollars.

These clients can’t work, have to pay babysitters with money they don’t have as well as do five self-help meetings a week, group therapy and eventually have to find a job.”

I, as a professional in this field for more than 30 years, want to thank Dr. Berke for his compassion. Obviously, he has listened to people, as have I, about the hardship of treatment.

Many of these clients came through the REBT group on Thursday nights at Holy Trinity Parish Center, so I know their stories. For example, a mother of four little girls, living in a hotel room, ages 8, 6, 4, 2 had to go back and forth to Buffalo daily, seven days a week, attend five self-help meetings, weekly, AA or NA, go to groups, attend 1:1 counseling and eventually get a job for drug court costs.

One client gave me a dose of my own medicine. I’m always preaching,” no pain, no gain,” and “the man or woman on top of the mountain didn’t fall there.”

She stated, “You are a tough guy, thank God, because I’m sick of counselors with gummie bears, bubbles, bangles and balloons. Do you think this is fair, my situation?”

I stared at her and simply said, “No, it’s absurd. You have my respect and if I can change it, I will.”

She was startled at my answer, because for every belief they have, I want proof. She gave me all the proof I needed to know this is a highly irrational way of thinking. Dr. Berke also stated that he was going to speak to Senator Borrello and Assemblyman Goodell about this issue.

Evidently, the powers in Mayville and Jamestown see nothing wrong with this over the years. One CASAC counselor told me when she complained on behalf of clients doing this on her caseload, she was told “some treatment is better than no treatment,” and if it wasn’t for this program, they would get no Methadone whatsoever. ”

The people in charge should be ashamed of their lack of empathy. My good friend and buddy for years told me that his daughter totaled two cars in two years due to weather, going back and forth to Buffalo to get her Methadone and eventually died of her addiction. I’m on the road daily still at my age. The risks involved from weather, bad drivers and circumstances put these clients at high risk daily.

I don’t think we have to beat the drum any further. We have provided evidence and facts that as Dr. Berke stated, this is “absurd.”

Mike Tramuta has been a CASAC counselor for more than 30 years. Call 983-1592 for more information.

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