A Letter to AG James (October 2021)

Attorney General James,

We understand that your office will play an important role in deciding how the opioid settlement money should be spent.  As residents of Harlem (124th between Adam Clayton Powell and Lenox), we have experienced an intense degradation in the quality of life in the neighborhood.  The increased draw of vulnerable people to the high-density methadone clinics has created a massive pool of vulnerable people for drug dealers to prey upon.  In addition to the vulnerable population, the dealers attract addicts who are not seeking help, and the problem is exacerbated.  Drug deals are done in the open, drug use is in the open, and the resulting loitering has led to a level of filth from trash, urination, defecation, and rat infestations that we have only ever witnessed in the most desperate parts of 3rd world countries.  Given the over-saturation of methadone clinics in Harlem (19% of the city’s methadone clinics are located in Harlem; 75% of the patients commute in from as far away as Staten Island), we would like to see several things happen with the settlement money.  

First, new smaller facilities should be opened elsewhere in the city to allow patients the support they need closer to home.  Simultaneously, the concentration of methadone clinics should be reduced by at least two thirds in order to more appropriately align with the actual local need.  Moreover, the capacity of individual clinics should be cut way down so that no one location provides a rich pool of targets for drug dealers.

Second, rather than offering methadone, the remaining clinics should offer treatments like naltrexone or buprenorphine that don’t require patients to travel to clinics on a daily basis for treatment.  Taking it a step further, methadone should be offered only as a last resort to avoid building up a concentration of vulnerable people upon whom drug dealers prey.

Third, there should be money invested in a professional support team for and daily cleaning of the 125th St & Lenox corridor.  Lenox between 123rd and 126th is a safety and hygiene hazard.  The local community has essentially been abandoned to deal with a density of mental health and addiction patients who pose a threat at all hours of the day and who leave trash everywhere.

Thank you for your consideration,

Kate and Dustin Rubenstein

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