OASAS: Stigma About Treatment Centers Is Fear-Based, Not Factual

DUNKIRK – The public concerns about a proposed methadone clinic in Dunkirk may be valid, but according to one agency, many of them are based in fear not fact.

The New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), in a statement to WNYNews Now, said ““There is a stigma against medication-assisted treatment, including methadone, which is based in fear and not in fact.”
WNYNews Now sought the response from OASAS after State Senator Cathy Yong sent the agency commissioner a letter asking them to relocate the proposed clinic away from a local school. Parents, teachers and Young want the clinic moved away from the Northern Chautauqua Catholic School.
“Methadone is widely recognized in the medical community as an effective treatment for opioid addiction, and has helped many people who are fighting the disease of addiction enter recovery. New York State is committed to increasing the availability of medication-assisted treatment across New York, and helping more New Yorkers access these services. At OASAS, we work closely with communities across the state to ensure that these facilities are placed in communities where they are needed most,” OASAS said.
Young wrote the agency, asking that they consider the concerns of local community members.
“I am concerned about this location’s proximity to the Northern Chautauqua Catholic School and its students, and the risk this could present to those young people. For the benefit of this community, I urge you to choose another location,” Young wrote to OASAS Commissioner Arlene Gonzalez-Sanchez.
“We cannot remain blind to the fact that the presence of these facilities and the addicted individuals they serve can impact the neighborhood and expose children to troubling and potentially dangerous situations,” Young wrote. “These centers are often a magnet for drug dealers looking to sell drugs to vulnerable people in recovery as they enter and exit the building. With this element in the neighborhood, crime and drug use can increase. It is our responsibility to protect our children from these risks.”
OASAS, however, said that simply isn’t true.

“There is no evidence to suggest that OTP clinics result in an increase in crime in the areas where they are sited,” OASAS said. “Facilities designed to help a special population such as people with an array of substance use disorder services (SUD) are often stigmatized based on misinformation. There are many people in this region of the State who need treatment but not enough slots and clinics available, and part of the issue is because of the community stereotypes they have about these clinics.”

Officials with the school said if the clinic is located next to the facility, it could decrease enrollment, which could lead to closure of the school.
Methedone clinics are now referred to as Opioid Treatment Programs, or OTPs. In addition to medication-assisted treatment, which can include methadone or other medications such as suboxone and vivitrol, these facilities also offer counseling, medical services, and other health and wellness services.