Drug users from other neighborhoods come to Harlem for methadone clinics; Local activists worry for neighborhood

Manhattan

HARLEM, Manhattan — Dozens of methadone clinics meant to help people with substance abuse problems are in East and Central Harlem, but concerned residents and community groups have complained these clinics attract unwanted drug use.

Lifelong Harlem Resident Madlyn Stokelywants the open-air drug use and sales to stop.

“We see people that could be dead, laying on the street, not quite sure what their state is,” Stokely said.

Ending the drug use and sales is her mission as part of the Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association. 

“I see these Black and brown people who are just dying on the streets. It’s really, really painful and hurtful,” she said.

Stokely, along with local community boards, have said the drug use is so rampant here because of the concentration of methadone clinics in East and Central Harlem. There are dozens in a relatively small area.

“Central and East Harlem together, we have 3% of New York City’s population, but we have 18% of New York City’s distribution capacity,” Eva Chan of the Greater Harlem Coalition said.

Chan is also part of Manhattan’s Community Board 11.

“There’s a whole marketplace that’s being developed, evolved around the methadone clinic,” she said.

Drug dealers come to this part of Manhattan because they know they have a captive and willing clientele, according to Chan.

Through the Freedom of Information Law, the Greater Harlem Coalition said it learned 76% percent of the people using methadone clinics in Harlem do not live in Harlem.

“People are coming from Long Island, from Westchester, or other places even outside the City of New York,” Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said.

Brewer said she supports limiting how many of these clinics can be in one concentrated area.

New York State’s Office of Addiction Services and Supports said it has spoken with community leaders in Harlem and that, “The people using drugs on the street are, for the most part, people who need treatment, not people who are in treatment.”

OASAS has said it’s trying to reach people on the street and encourage them to seek drug treatment services. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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