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Brocton Residents Should Have Say In Plan For Sobriety House

We, the concerned people of the Village of Brocton and of the Town of Portland, believe no individual nor organization, however well intentioned, has the either the moral prerogative or legal right to impose their arbitrary will upon an unwilling community; rather, it is the right and consent of the governed to decide those matters that affect their lives, families, security, properties and livelihoods.

With malice toward no one, we oppose the establishment–by Breathe Life of WNY, Inc.–of a Sober Living Environment (SLE), sobriety house, or similarly named operation, at the site of the St. Stephen Hotel in Brocton, New York.

We believe the residents of the Village in particular will be unduly harmed by the presence of a SLE at this location. The employment of recovering addicts working as servers in a proposed coffee shop within the building does not appear to be a viable business plan.

Owing to the obvious lack of popular support, it is unlikely that beverage sales alone will generate sufficient income for this venture to be self-sustaining.

Consequently, income for its operation would necessarily be derived from contributions and various payments for housing its rehabilitating clients.

The surge in opiod use within the United States has become pandemic. As documented in the media, various locales in Florida and California, for example, that have allowed the SLE as a remedy option soon discover that they were sorely mistaken.

Almost without exception, any given SLE has no managed treatment plan, no regulation and oversight, making rife the opportunity for exploitation. Most perniciously, the SLE is actually incentivized by its failure to rehabilitate, making relapse or loss of life due to overdose a virtual certainty.

After Wendy McEntyre lost a 23-year-old son to an overdose while he was living in a SLE, she started the Jarrod’s Law initiative. Her experience with that sobriety house led her to conclude that the landlord was indifferent to the plight of the residents, was belligerent and accusatory toward her and her late son, and considered himself blameless for any activity that occurred on his premises. Thus, without proper accountability, oversight, inspections, and immediate medical services should an emergency arise, the “safe house” was anything but safe.

When Proposition 47 was passed in California, it lowered the category for non-violent drug crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor. Its intention was to allow addicts the opportunity to seek treatment rather than face confinement.

An unintended consequence, however, was noticed by Katrina Foley, mayor of Costa Mesa. She opines that the level of petty crimes in neighborhoods containing a recovery home has increased, and the quality of life in the area has correspondingly decreased.

Also in California, residents in Lake Arrowhead have bitterly complained about declining property values with every rehab home that opens its doors in their area.

There is no small level of anxiety and loathing among locals at the prospect of having recovering addicts introduced into Brocton. Without safeguards, they feel their children would be endangered by merely walking in the vicinity of the hotel. They suspect property values would decline and that the tax base would erode. They mention that the SLE is an obvious soft target for those seeking to engage in illicit drug activity.

Furthermore, they believe the promoters were less than forthcoming about their true intentions when purchasing the St. Stephen. In fact, they complain that their inquiries continue to go unanswered.

It should also be mentioned that the SLE as an industry generates enormous revenue for its founders. For any organization intent on helping those in need, the altruistic motives of forming and running a SLE could be easily compromised by the lure of aggrandizement. One such New York operator plead guilty in February to Medicaid fraud after a New York Times investigation discovered that they received over $1.5 million in illegal kickbacks from Medicaid-funded treatment providers Narco Freedom, the NRI Group and Canarsie Aware.

The New York Times quotes Attorney General Schneiderman as saying, “Yury Baumblit and Rimma Baumblit lined their pockets by preying on our most vulnerable New Yorkers.”

It remains to be seen what makes the St. Stephen Hotel on Main Street in Brocton so uniquely qualified as a site for a SLE. The Village lacks resources and infrastructure: it does not have an enhanced law enforcement presence; the nearest emergency room is several miles away; there is no public transportation available; there are no drug and alcohol counselors nearby (the closest being in Dunkirk or Jamestown); there are no surveillance cameras installed on the streets; and the concerned citizens of the community vehemently oppose it.

We therefore maintain it is the sole and preeminent right and consent of the residents of the Village of Brocton and of the Town of Portland to determine the future of our community, not the arbitrary imposition of another’s will upon us–however seemingly benevolent that entity may be.

Timothy J. O’Malley is a Brocton resident.

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