Community rallies against substance treatment center

A group of local residents came out to say no having a Miracle City substance abuse program in their community.
Photo by Fernando Justiniano

Miracle City, a health-related business, that set up at 2800 Bruckner Boulevard in Throggs Neck in 2017, is drawing community ire after announcing their intention to begin what’s known as an 822 counseling program for those suffering from behavioral disorders, which includes smoking, drinking and to opioid drug addiction.

An 822 program, which is regulated by the NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, provides counseling services only – as Miracle City says theirs will – and cannot dispense medicines that wean substance abusers off drugs without additional approvals, which they do not have at the time, and according to the program’s operators, will not be seek.

Even though Miracle City explicitly told the Bronx Times and others that they do not plan to dispense medicine, starting a counseling program would be a first step towards full-blown drug treatment in what is mostly a low-density residential community, community members believe.

After Andrea Corson, a partner in Miracle City, provided details about the operation at a Community Board 10 Health and Human Services Committee meeting on Tuesday, April 23, about 65 residents rallied outside the proposed location on Saturday, April 27 in a show of unity against the plan.

Edgido Sementilli, a local activist, claims that there are already 45 similar programs in the borough and the “the placement of the drug program at (the) location is just not right.”

Residents living near the site had an opportunity to express their opposition to the Miracle City venture during the boisterous rally – chanting “Throggs Neck Strong – we won’t have it.”

Attendee Anibal Vazquez said he was concerned for students attending These Our Treasures, M.S. 101 and P.S. 304.

“We are concerned about the safety of the teachers and the students when they walk around the area,” said Vazquez, noting that children frequently walk to and from school.

A cross-section of residents protested on Saturday, April 27 against Miracle City’s plan for a substance abuse counseling program inside of 2800 Bruckner Boulevard.
Photo by Fernando Justiniano

Vazquez said that based on his understanding, an 822 program allows a provider the “ability to start with counseling and then hire a nurse and start dispensing methadone and other substances for those seeking treatment.”

He said he is not against helping people who have issues with substance abuse, but that the Bruckner Boulevard location isn’t right for this type of facility.

“When I first moved into the area in 1988 that building wasn’t there; it was a gas station,” said Vazquez. “For that building to go from being a gas station to a building serving addicts in an area with single-family homes just doesn’t make sense.”

Another resident who is a staunch opponent of the plan, Deborah Teska, has a close family member addicted to drugs, and said she very concerned that the program’s clients will congregate in the area, like the Montefiore Hospital-run methadone clinic on Waters Place,, driving down property values and creating safety concerns.

“It upsets me…that you own a home and you have to lose your investment and move,” said Teska.

Teska added: “It is not right. You cannot plop this in a residential area where you have (several) schools.”

She believes that a campus setting is more appropriate, and believes putting substance abusers in a location alongside a highway will bring drug dealers to the community to sell their wares.

Corson, a resident of Mount Kisco, pointed out at the CB 10 committee meeting, that a similar program in her neighborhood did not have an impact on the community, but she did not provide any documentation to support her opinion.

Local residents Ronnie Rodriguez and Zoraida Torres said no to Miracle City.
Photo by Fernando Justiniano

Miracle City’s chief compliance officer, said that there are two kinds of 822 programs, and the type they are applying for the counseling component only.

“Not now or anytime in the future will we be seeking a license to dispense or store medication,” she said, adding that misinformation is circulating throughout the community.

The 822 program is slated to occupy 25 percent of the property’s entire leasable space.

Senator Alessandra Biaggi has not publically stated her opinion on the matter but a recent inquiry into her silence was responded to by a staffer who said the proposed location was removed from the population, indicating support for the program.

Miracle City would serve a boroughwide clientele and because it is a Medicaid eligible provider cannot refuse anyone service.

Mary Jane Musano, Waterbury LaSalle Community Association president, acknowledged the opioid crisis, but said that an appropriate setting needs to be found for programming.

“The (rally) crowd was adamant that they do not want this,” she said.

Longtime resident Brianna Cohn (l) and Egidio Sementilli reiterate the details of what Miracle City plans to bring to the community.
Photo by Fernando Justiniano

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@schnepsmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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