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Meeting the need

Details of substance use clinic offered at town hall

OBSERVER Photo by Natasha Matteliano A virtual town hall meeting was held Friday morning to discuss a substance use clinic opening on Main Street in the city of Dunkirk. Twenty-eight locations were visited before a final decision was made on the building pictured above.

Twelve participants joined member of Hispanics United of Buffalo in a virtual town hall meeting Friday morning — the topic, the substance use clinic opening on Main Street in the city of Dunkirk.

Engenio Russi, executive director of Hispanics United first gave a brief history of the organization and shared that 28 locations were visited in the city before the final decision was made. He also said that an architect has been hired to begin renderings of what the clinic will look like.

Elizabeth Smith, program director of Hispanics United offered a detailed synopsis of what the clinic will bring and offer.

“We’re looking to open two outpatient programs, an opiate treatment program and a chemical dependence outpatient treatment program,” Smith said. “The opiate treatment program will deliver patient-centered, culturally confident services to about 400 clients with opiate use disorder to address the vast unmet needs of Chautauqua County.”

She then read a list of three medications that will be used in the program, including methadone. Smith also said that they will be providing support services, including counseling and education.

“Chautauqua County is considered a limited capacity area as all of its residents in need of opiate treatment need to leave the county currently to get treated,” Smith said. “Within the city of Dunkirk, there are no opiate treatment programs and only one OASAS-licensed chemical dependency program. More options are available for individuals who are willing to travel the 45 miles from Dunkirk to Erie County.”

She said limited services have led to a higher rate of opiate overdose deaths as well as emergency room visits in the county.

“In the New York state county opiate quarterly report published in May of 2019, the rate of all opiate related overdose deaths in Chautauqua County in 2018 was a total number of 15 per 100,000 population- the total rate was 11.6%,” Smith shared. “The rate of heroin overdose deaths in Chautauqua in 2018 was a total number of three and the rate was 2.3%. The rate of overdoses due to opiate pain relievers in Chautauqua in 2018 was 15 and the rate was 11.6%. The total number of deaths in 2018 was 33 at a rate of 22.5%.”

Hours of operation for the clinic will be Monday through Saturday 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will be closed on Sundays. All programs will be culturally competent in specific to focus on the Hispanic community including bilingual cultural programming on site.

Security was the next focus of the meeting, and Russi offered all he could on the topic.

“With security, we understand people are always concerned about the population that we serve,” Russi said. “Our efforts will be to provide camera security inside the building and also camera security outside the building with also patrolling security throughout the building and outside.”

Russi shared that they have already met with the police chief about regulations in the area and how to be good neighbors.

“The building will be fully alarmed inside, including all the doorways and passages,” Russi said. “At this point we’ll probably have four security staff, maybe more depending on the need.”

Some questions were asked by participants, one was why Dunkirk was chosen over Jamestown.

“My understanding was that OASAS provided some money to the hospital down in Dunkirk to open up a clinic down there,” Russi said. “There was a need in the Dunkirk area based on the information that we researched and saw a need in the Dunkirk area. We also have clients coming from Dunkirk to our programs in Buffalo currently.”

Another individual was interested in what other sites were looked at. Russi gave a list of what he could remember and shared that the group had looked at were Specialty Steel, the building over by the new water tower, the Flickinger Building, P&G Grocery, the old HSBC bank location, some lots heading towards Specialty Steel and the Moose Lodge.

When asked what attention the clinic will bring to the area Russi said that “these types of clinics draw the attention of the community and that’s why we bring in a security firm that when the clients receive their service we have the clients sign that they will be good neighbors, abide by the rules and regulations and once they receive their treatment that they leave the area.”

Russi also shared that sometimes it gets backed up a little bit because equipment malfunctions, but the group does its best to keep the flow moving.

“We know we’re going to be held to a higher standard and I welcome the community to talk with me, to engage with me any time that they feel we’re not doing our part,” Russi said.

Other points made by Hispanics United staff included that the group does provide regular toxicology testing on site for all clients which is actually a regulatory requirement with most checked weekly, however it truly depends on a case-by-case basis.

The clinic is looking to open in mid to late fall. The group asks that any other questions be emailed to either Engenio Russi at erussi@hubwny.org or Elizabeth Smith at esmith@hubwny.org.

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