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Future of Proposed Addiction Treatment Center Will Be Decided Wednesday

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The fate of the proposed addiction treatment center in Broome County will be decided Wednesday night when it goes up to vote in front of the county legislature.

Both the public and politicians have weighed in for and against the facility. Some, like retired minister Stephen Heiss, have a personal connection to the opioid crisis, leading them to support the facility.

"Having kids in our youth group who suffered and died, two of them and the other two are still around doing something," says Heiss, "It's hard for me to understand why there is anybody opposed to this."

Heiss wrote a letter to all 15 Broome County legislators, asking them to vote in favor of the treatment center. Four of them wrote back. Heiss did not want to name those four, but says he was encouraged by their responses.

While Heiss fights for the 50 bed detox facility, that number of beds is a concern for Republican Legislator Scott Baker.

"We've only had a couple hundred people from the Broome County area directed towards that kind of treatment," says Baker.

Baker says data from the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) shows 138 Broome County residents were sent to similar detox centers in 2016, while an estimated 3,200 patients could come through the Broome facility in a year. There was no needs assessment done for the proposed facility.

"We don't put down a new road in Broome County without a needs assessment," says Baker.

The $3 million in state funding foes to the medical provider, not to offset costs for the county. Baker says those costs could add up if out of state patients or those without permanent home addresses come to the facility.

"Automatically, they get swept up in the safety net program at the Department of Social Services and immediately are placed on Medicaid, that we as Broome County taxpayers are paying for," says Baker.

Plans for the facility to be housed on the Broome Developmental Center campus were announced in August, with County Executive Jason Garnar optimistic that the center would be accepting patients by January, 2018. The project was put on hold when Legislator Dan Reynolds tabled the vote earlier this month, stating the legislature did not have enough information to move forward with a decision. Reynolds reversed his decision just 6 days later when he received answers to his questions from OASAS.