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Erie County Executive: We want drug treatment center if Broome doesn't

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ERIE COUNTY (WBNG) -- A western New York County has expressed interest in state funding for a drug treatment facility if Broome County turns it down.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz notified New York state officials of Erie County’s interest in creating an Opioid Treatment Center to help combat the opioid crisis, following the state’s offer of $2.7 million in funding for treatment and startup costs along with a ready-to-use facility for such a Center in Broome County

In a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and New York Senate Leader John Flanagan, Poloncarz indicated Erie County’s desire to locate this life-saving Center in Erie County if Broome County declines to do so.

“A Center such as this would be a critical hub for action against the opioid epidemic and would provide a base of operations for countywide and potentially regional efforts. This epidemic is the scourge of our time and demands that we come together as a community to address the issue, provide treatment and services for the addicted and those impacted by addiction, and begin to heal as a community,” said Poloncarz. “Opioid addiction does not wait, it does not take days off, and addicted individuals literally could be moments away from the dose that kills them. We must act with alacrity and do all that we can today to stop that from happening. This game-changing Center will save lives, and if Broome County chooses not to pursue it then Erie County is definitely interested in doing so.”

The Broome County Legislature has yet to vote on whether to accept the state funding. Broome County Executive Jason Garnar (D), New York State Senator Fred Akshar (R) and New York State Assembly Woman Donna Lupardo (D) have all voiced support for the facility. 

"This is unprecedented, the type of help we have got," Garnar said. "What the state has done here is they got a 20 million dollar building for free, they got a 3 million dollar a year funding award. It is unprecedented."

Chairman of the Broome County Legislature Dan Reynolds (R) did not return our request for comment Wednesday. There are still 10 Legislators who have yet to answer our questions on where they stand on this issue. So, there is still no telling if the proposal would pass or fail if and when it is voted on.

12 News reached out to NYS Office of Alcoholism & Substance Abuse Services, which is the office giving the grant. When asked if there is any timetable or limit to when the grant can be used, an O.A.S.A.S. spokesperson responded by saying: 

“OASAS is committed to supporting a community-based, medically supervised withdrawal facility at the former Broome Developmental Center. We look forward to the Broome County Legislature’s action on the issue.”

Wednesday, State Lawmakers reacted to the news of Erie County's interest in a facility in place of Broome. Assemblywoman Lupardo told 12 News in a statement: 

“We have no intention of giving up this hard-fought funding. We will find a way to make this work for the people in our community who are counting on us.”

State Senator Akshar told 12 News in a statement: 

"My support of this project has not wavered. Our community needs these services, and that's why I've worked tirelessly with my colleagues in Albany to bring those services here as quickly as possible. 

It would truly be a tragedy to see this opportunity pass our community by and see local tax dollars continue to be siphoned off into other communities to pay for addiction treatment for our own residents, neighbors, friends and family members. This project is the right thing to do for the people of the Southern Tier, and I urge all those in favor of moving this project forward to continue to make your voices heard. 

As a Co-chair of the Joint Senate Task Force on Heroin & Opioid Addiction, I recognize that communities across our state are in need of additional resources to fight this epidemic, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in Albany to help address those needs. But as State Senator of the 52nd Senate District, my priority is to help meet those needs in the community I serve, and I'll continue working hard until this project comes to fruition for the people I represent in the Southern Tier.”