Ribbon Cut On New Drug Addiction Treatment Clinic
DUNKIRK — At one point during Wednesday’s press conference and ribbon cutting for the Safe Point Lighthouse drug addiction treatment clinic in Dunkirk, Acacia Network CEO Lymaris Albors gazed at Mayor Wilfred Rosas with visible emotion.
“It’s incredible to look to you eye to eye after more than seven years. Our word is our word,” she said.
Wednesday’s event was the culmination of a long effort by Acacia Network, Rosas and numerous others to get an opioid treatment facility in Chautauqua County. The celebratory and pleasant mood, with catered breakfast fare and string musicians, was darkened when the morning’s speakers hinted at the grim realities of addiction.
Albors offered a troubling statistic: Overdose deaths in Chautauqua County were up 18% last year.
“We’re hopeful that Safe Point Lighthouse will serve as a beacon of hope in the area,” she said. “Together, we can further prevent unnecessary deaths as the result of addiction.”
“Thank you to all the visionaries. Thanks to all who moved the mountains,” said Carmen Villa-Lugo, chair of Acacia’s board. “Acacia prides itself in saying, ‘We don’t tell you what to do or how to do it.’ When we partner with a community, we ask, ‘What do you need?'”
Several state officials, including Acting Secretary of State Robert Rodriguez and Chinazo Cunningham, commissioner of the statewide addiction services office, joined local politicians in celebrating the opening. Many of the clinic’s workers were there as well.
“Economic development and community development is great, but if you’re not taking care of people … then what are you developing for?” Rodriguez, representing Gov. Kathy Hochul, said in his remarks. He said addiction services were “sorely, sorely lacking” in this area before Safe Point Lighthouse.
Chautauqua County Executive PJ Wendel spoke to that point in a poignant way. He said that as an emergency medical technician, he can hear all the distress calls on his pager. “I hate to say it but almost daily it’s, ‘Unresponsive, overdose.’ ‘Unresponsive, Narcan administered.'”
Wendel said of the COVID-19 pandemic that eventually, “we took our hats off and went back to work. The opioid pandemic never left us.”
He added, “My commitment is that in 20, 30 years, we are still not talking about the opioid epidemic in Chautauqua County.”
Rosas said that soon after he was first elected mayor in 2016, family members asked him why there were no addiction treatment services in the community. “I had no answer for them,” he said.
Soon after, Rosas was talking to a parent whose daughter was in trouble with drugs. Not long after that conversation, he saw the daughter’s obituary in the newspaper. That made him decide, once and for all, that he needed to advocate for a treatment clinic.
“I’m a proud mayor,” he said. “We were able to bring these services that will save lives.”