PORT JERVIS, N.Y. -- In Port Jervis, a town of 8,800 right at the meeting point of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, Spectrum News polled several people on a debate that has forced many to think outside their comfort zones.
Most residents we spoke with believe in the science of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for addicts. They are at odds, though, over where exactly in their town a treatment center should be.
The city recently shot down plans for Cornerstone Family Healthcare to set up a treatment center at 123 Pike Street in the city's downtown area, and suggested it find a lower-profile location.
"I think heroin is the biggest issue with this town right now," Port Jervis resident Anthony Cole said.
Cole openly shared that he "was in the drug game years ago," and that he is now on a local task force to help curb addiction and crime in town. He said the city's decision to keep Cornerstone from the downtown area was a smart one.
"Because of the fact that if you have a heavier traffic area with children, there's going to be questions [from children]," Cole said. "It may lead to curiosity and then to ultimately ending up doing something [experimenting with drugs]."
Margaret Hendershot, who said she and her husband used to struggle with alcohol, strongly disagrees with the city's decision on the treatment center location. She suspects a treatment center would cause fewer problems than social spots in town have caused.
"It's methadone. What about alcohol? Every time you turn around, you see these bars going up," Hendershot said. "There should be something different than bars."
A spokesperson for Cornerstone said on Monday evening that the issue of treatment centers in rural communities is an "emotionally supercharged" issue, and the concerns of the public have been loudly heard. He also said Cornerstone is "continuing to explore all options" with regard to a treatment center location and simply that "we believe in treatment."
The treatment center could accomodate more than 200 people, according to a previous statement from Cornerstone.
The spokeperson said Cornerstone's behavioral health professionals treat and counsel about 450 addicts in Orange County, and that about 50 people from Port Jervis regularly make the 40-mile trip to Newburgh for treatment.