Weekly Feature

2017-07-12 / Front Page

Councilmember alleges Catholic Health mischaracterized comments

Chemical dependency clinic
By Keaton T. DePriest

A letter, scheduled to be filed as a communication item by the Town Board during its meeting on Monday,  provides a response by a councilmember who was recently alleged by Catholic Health Systems as being supportive of a chemical dependency treatment clinic planned for Millersport Highway. 

The correspondence, dated July 6, was  written by Council Member Deborah Bruch Bucki and sent to both Dr. Howard Zucker, commissioner of the state Department of Health, and Arlene Gonzalez-Sanchez, commissioner of the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.

According to Bucki, a Certificate of Need application filed by Catholic Health and sent to Zucker’s office misrepresented her authority and mischaracterized her opinion of opening the clinic at 910 Millersport Highway.

A Certificate of Need is a legal document required in many states and some federal jurisdictions before proposed acquisitions, expansions, or creations of facilities are allowed. 

In order for Catholic Health to operate the planned facility on Millersport Highway, the certificate would have to be approved by state health officials.

Catholic Health’s plan is to close its current clinic at 3730 Sheridan Drive in favor of a new location at 910 Millersport Highway. According to Catholic Health and Sisters of Charity officials, the plan would allow for expansion of services at the new Millersport facility, which is three-tenths of a mile from the existing location.

The clinic, to be called Sisters Amherst Health Center, would provide treatment services for addictions to drugs, alcohol and prescription medications. Treatments could include administering methadone, Vivitrol or Suboxone, depending on the patient.

The new clinic would abut the rear of residential properties on North Ivyhurst Road, and the building would also be about two-tenths of a mile from the northwest corner of Garnet Park.

In her letter to Sanchez and Zucker, Bucki  said the application reads that she was “vice chair” of the Town Board — a representation she reports  she never made to Catholic Health officials during a  July 16, 2016, meeting.

Bucki also said she was “extremely disappointed to find that [Catholic Health’s application] set forth misleading characterizations of communications by the applicant’s representatives with me in July 2016.”

“More troubling, the application further alleged that, after I met with the applicant’s representatives on July 16, 2016, the Amherst Town Board expressed its full support for the application’s comtemplated establishment of a methadone treatment clinic at 910 Millersport Highway,” Bucki wrote in the letter. “I dispute this characterization.”

She added in the letter that she would support the Millersport Highway location only if appropriate advance notice would be given to North Ivyhurst Road residents and if all concerns of those residents would be addressed to their satisfaction.

For the past several months, area residents have cited safety concerns and possible negative effects on property values. They have also requested that town officials suggest to Catholic Health a location in town that is not in proximity to homes or a park.

In June, Amherst Supervisor Barry Weinstein sent a letter to Dr. Howard Zucker, state commissioner of health, requesting the Department of Health’s denial of a certificate of need for the chemical dependency clinic.

Additionally, during the past month, town officials have been working with Catholic Health  in identifying   more than 60 other sites across five locations that could be used as a chemical dependency treatment clinic.

Sisters of Charity president and CEO Martin Boryszak said Catholic Health would be open to a different location if certain requirements could be met.
Boryszak, in his communications to town officials, submitted a list of building specifications that include the facility being:

- At least 3,000 to 5,000 square feet that can be renovated to include two to three exam rooms, four counselor offices, a supervisor’s office and a vault for storage of medicine.

- On a property that can accommodate 25 to 30 parking spaces.

- Within the 14226 ZIP code and within a mile of its existing Sheridan Drive clinic.

 - Approximately $18 to $23 per square foot.

In his letter, Boryszak  requested that the list of possible clinic sites be submitted to the company no later than July 14.

The Bee  has requested comment from Catholic Health officials regarding Bucki’s July 6 letter. A full report of the issue will be published in the July 19 edition. 

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