Higgins, Poloncarz & Brown Announce Over $8 Million for Buffalo & Erie County Workforce Investment Board

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) was joined by Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown to announce that the Buffalo & Erie County Workforce Investment Board (WIB) has been awarded a federal grant through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) totaling over $8 million.  The funding, provided through the Health Profession Opportunity Grant program, will help train and place Western New Yorkers in health related jobs. 

“This is a significant investment in Western New York workers seeking valuable employment opportunities in growing medical fields across the region and particularly at the thriving Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus,” said Congressman Higgins, who wrote a letter of support for the grant.  “We commend the Workforce Investment Board for their initiative, collaboration with education and job training leaders like Erie Community College and for the work they do each and every day to promote job opportunity and placement.”

Heather Okoro, Executive Director of the Buffalo & Erie County Workforce Investment Board, added, “We are thrilled to continue a successful HPOG collaboration that prepares individuals for demand driven employment in allied healthcare jobs offering advancement opportunities and career ladders.”

The Health Profession Opportunity Grant (HPOG) program is administered through the HHS Office of Family Assistance and authorized by the Affordable Care Act.  The program serves the dual need of providing education and employment training to low income individuals and helping to fill labor shortages in high demand occupations.  

“As the health care field expands here in Erie County, it is important to provide a work force that is skilled and ready to handle the positions that will be in demand,” said County Executive Mark Poloncarz.  Thanks to Congressman Higgins and this $8 million grant, the WIB will now be able to train and educate more residents for positions at the growing Buffalo Niagara medical campus or at other local healthcare facilities searching for qualified workers. Skill sets of all types will be in demand, and with this grant we are strengthening our workforce, diversifying our economy, and building a better Erie county.”

“Training the next generation of healthcare workers will not only strengthen the delivery of medical services in Buffalo, but also translates to high-skilled workers contributing to the local economy for years to come,” said City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown.  “I thank Congressman Brian Higgins for helping to secure this significant $8 million investment as we work together and in partnership with the Buffalo & Erie County Workforce Investment Board to create even more opportunity for city residents and others who seek valuable employment opportunities in Buffalo.”

The Buffalo & Erie County WIB intends to work with Erie 1 BOCES, Erie 2 BOCES and Erie Community College to facilitate training in fields ranging from: Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and pharmacy technician to medical secretary and certified nursing assistant/home health aide (CNA/HHA). 

“ECC strives to continue as a local leader in both classroom-to-career programs and job training,” said Jack Quinn, President of Erie Community College. “We’re continuously focused on finding ways to support both businesses and workers striving to move our Western New York economy forward. This federal grant will certainly aid us in this mission, and we applaud the tireless efforts of our local representatives and the Buffalo & Erie County Workforce Investment Board.”   

The Workforce Investment Board will receive $1,600,885 annually for a 5-year period ending September of 2020.  Through a previous HPOG award WIB has been able to train more than 1,200 Western New Yorkers in demand driven health occupations. 

Established by Congress through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Workforce Investment Boards assist job seekers and businesses in search of qualified applicants through a vast array of services.  Members of the private sector driven board are appointed by the County Executive and Mayor.  For more information on the Buffalo & Erie County Workforce Investment Board visit: .   


Higgins’ Bill Requiring A Threat Assessment of Hazardous Materials Crossing the Border Is Approved In Committee

(To access video click above or go to:  


The House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security approved H.R. 3350, a bill introduced by Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) which requires a terrorism threat assessment on the transport of chemical, biological, nuclear, and radiological materials across land borders and within the United States. 

The legislation comes in response to a plan by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to begin the transport of highly-enriched liquid uranium from Chalk River, Ontario to the Department of Energy’s Savannah Energy River Site in Aiken, South Carolina via the Peace Bridge in 2016.

In his testimony before the Committee, Higgins said, “The Department of Energy is relying on an analysis of this route that is outdated and does not reflect the threats we face today.  An attack on one of these trucks would have obvious and devastating consequences.”

Higgins pointed out that an attack, or even an accident involving one of these trucks, would have catastrophic consequences. The Peace Bridge is the busiest passenger crossing on the northern border and the second busiest cargo port of entry with our closest trading partner. Its strategic economic value makes it an inviting target.  In addition, the Peace Bridge traverses the Niagara River, which feeds Niagara Falls and connects two of the Great Lakes, which contain 95% of the surface fresh water in the United States.

Higgins, a member of the Homeland Security Committee, began his push for a full review of the plan in 2014 and earlier this year won approval of an amendment requiring a risk assessment.  This stand-alone legislation strengthens and expands the requirement for the threat assessment to be completed within 90 days of enactment of the act.  The bill also requires that the results of the study are shared with federal, state and local partners including the National Network of Fusion Centers.  


In a Victory For Veterans, Higgins Announces Kids Korner at the Buffalo VA Will Remain Open

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) announced the House of Representatives has approved legislation which will allow the Kids Korner program at the Buffalo VA Medical Center to remain open.  The program, which provides child care services while veterans attend medical appointments, was set to expire at the end of this year.  Higgins fought to include extension of the program in the VA authorization bill. 

“We should be removing obstacles to care and services for our veterans, not creating them,” said Congressman Higgins.  “Continuation of the Kids Korner child care program addresses one of the primary challenges veterans face when making and keeping critical health care appointments.  We are pleased to see this valuable program continue for veterans in Western New York.”  

“This service has been a great asset for Veterans who are parents or grandparents assisting them while they get their health care,” said Brian G. Stiller, VA Western New York Health Care medical center director. “Children enjoy being there too!”

Kids Korner opened at the Buffalo VA in 2011 as one of three pilot projects nationwide to provide child care services to veterans.  Originally set to expire in September of 2013, Higgins fought to extend the program in 2013 and again last year. 

Specifically, S. 2082, the Department of Veterans Affairs Expiring Authorities Act of 2015, reauthorizes through December 31, 2016, the pilot project that provides child care for veterans receiving health care.  The bill provides $1.5 million to support the program through 2016.  The bill has already passed in the Senate and will now go to the President for his signature.

Congressman Higgins spoke about the issue on House Floor.

(To access video click above or go to:

The text of Congressman Higgins remarks are below:

“Mr. Speaker:  A Department of Veterans Affairs survey found that over 10 percent of our veterans had to cancel VA medical appointments due to a lack of child care.

“Today the House will consider H.R. 3596, which will extend the VA Child Care pilot program that is scheduled to expire this year.

“This initiative has been a tremendous success in Western New York. Last year more than 1,300 children visited Kids Korner at the Buffalo VA Medical Center, helping hundreds of veterans keep their appointments.

“The program has been especially useful in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which requires regular counseling and recurring follow-up appointments.

“While I am grateful that Kids Korner will be extended for another year, Congress should do more. I urge my colleagues to support legislation introduced by Congresswoman Julia Brownley to make the program permanent and allow VA hospitals across the country to establish similar programs for the veterans that they serve.

“Making child care available to patients who need it is a cost-effective way to improve health outcomes for the veterans to whom we owe so much.”

Congressman Higgins is also sponsoring legislation, H.R. 1496 and H.R. 1948, which would allow the WNY VA to keep the Kids Korner program in operation permanently.


Congressman Higgins & Villa Maria College Announce $1.98 Million U.S. Department of Education Grant

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) and Villa Maria College announce a federal grant totaling more than $1.984 million for the College, provided through the U.S. Department of Education.

“Villa Maria College has a longstanding tradition of excellence in education and commitment to community service,” said Congressman Higgins.  “This grant will support Villa’s outreach efforts and work guiding students through to graduation.”

“We are truly appreciative of the Title III Grant,” said Villa Maria College President Sister Marcella Marie Garus.  “It will provide the necessary resources to advance our visionary plan goals to increase retention and graduation rates.  As Villa continues to become the premier student centered college in Western New York, these additional resources will be applied at every level to focus more directly on student success and continue our trend of increasing enrollment.”

The federal award of $396,870 annually for the next five years was provided through the Department of Education’s Strengthening Institutions Program, which supports higher education facilities’ efforts to expand their capacity to provide quality educational opportunities to low-income students.

Founded by Felician Sisters in 1960, Villa Maria College, located in the Town of Cheektowaga, provides quality higher education to a diverse student population through small class sizes and personalized attention.   Of the students enrolled in the fall of 2014, 70% have parents who do not hold a college degree, 13% have documented disabilities, and 93% received need based financial aid.

Dr. Matthew Giordano, Vice President for Academic Affairs, added, “Villa Maria College prides itself on providing students a unique educational experience, characterized by individual attention, a caring community, and robust student support systems. Receiving the Title III grant not only affirms the value of this experience, it enables the College to take the student experience to an entirely new level. With Title III funding, Villa Maria will significantly improve the quality of instruction and support services, which will have tangible, immediate impact on our students. The real recipients of this grant are the students and community members of Western New York, who will have the opportunity to directly benefit in new and enhanced ways from the mission-driven, student-centered education that Villa Maria offers.”


Senator Schumer & Congressman Higgins Call for Quick Re-Use of Dillon Courthouse; Urge GSA to Guard Against Land Speculation and Warehousing – And Factor-In Community and Economic Impact in Divestiture of Federal Building

Schumer & Higgins Push GSA to Ensure that the Next Owner of Dillon Courthouse Gets the Building Up and Running Quickly and Doesn’t Let it Continue to Sit Vacant

Schumer & Higgins Fight to See that Dillon Reuse Project is the Right Fit for the City of Buffalo & Niagara Square

Schumer & Higgins: Don’t Let Dillon Become a Black Hole

Senator Charles Schumer and Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) are calling on the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to guard against land speculation and to consider community and economic impact in their sale of the vacant Dillon Courthouse. Schumer and Higgins pointed to previous examples where developers have purchased buildings in Buffalo with no plans for immediate reuse, noting the detrimental impact that can have on the community, and urged GSA to prevent that scenario with the Dillon Courthouse. Specifically, when reviewing proposals from potential future owners of the Michael J. Dillon United States Courthouse building, the Senator and Congressman called on GSA to consider not just the price but also the long-term community benefits, as well as the developer’s or project sponsor’s ability to deliver on their goals. 

“The Dillon Courthouse sits on prime real estate, in the center of the City of Buffalo, which is seeing unprecedented growth and development, so we must make sure the next entity that takes over this property will move quickly to ensure that the property does not sit vacant any longer,” said Senator Schumer. “GSA can help accomplish that goal and ensure the best outcome for Buffalo by factoring in the community impacts, including the next owner’s ability to immediately put Dillion Courthouse into active use.”

“After sitting vacant for 4 years, this community is eager to see action on the Dillon Courthouse,” said Congressman Higgins.  “This location is an important center point for our City and we want the next property holder to have sincere intentions to move quickly with a reuse plan that is in the best interests of this community.”

Last week the GSA announced that it will move forward with plans to divest the Michael J. Dillon U.S. Courthouse from its inventory and begin the process of considering the transfer or sale of the property. As part of that process GSA will solicit proposals from a number of entities including other federal agencies, state and local governments, non-profit organizations, and private developers. The Senator and Congressman urged GSA to take into account community and economic impact as they review those proposals and do everything in their power to ensure that the selected proposal is achieved quickly so that the building can return to use as soon as possible.   

The Dillon Courthouse has remained vacant since the opening of the new Robert H. Jackson Federal Courthouse in 2011.  The unique pentagonal, 7-story, 183,000 square foot building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  It sits on Niagara Square, the hub of Buffalo’s Joseph Ellicott designed radial street grid, which is also home to Buffalo City Hall, Statler Towers, the Mahoney State Office Building and the new Jackson Federal Courthouse. 

Below is the text of the letter from Sen. Schumer and Rep. Higgins:

Dear Administrator Roth:

We write to discuss the General Services Administration (GSA) disposal of the Dillon Courthouse building in Buffalo, New York. We urge you to choose a developer proposal that would have a significant amount of community and economic impact, and to build into the sale covenants requirements for investment and smart reuse to help prevent against land speculation and underutilization.

The Dillon Courthouse is located in a prime location in downtown Buffalo, and could serve a number of purposes that could benefit the community and boost economic development in the city. The building has undergone several upgrades in recent years, including new elevators, a roof replacement, and the installation of a 150 kilowatt generator. Despite being constructed in 1936, the Dillon Courthouse was recently given an energy efficiency rating higher than many modern buildings.

It is our understanding that GSA received several responses to last year’s Request for Information (RFI) with ideas for developing and providing a new use for the Dillon Courthouse. As you evaluate the responses and make a final decision, we urge you to take community and economic impacts of each proposal into account. In scoring the proposals, the GSA should award additional points to proposals that would most benefit the community, even if they are not necessarily the highest dollar offer. We also urge you to ensure that you choose a developer that will make active use of the Dillon Courthouse, instead of simply speculating on the property and leaving it dormant for years.

Buffalo and all of Western New York is currently in the midst of an impressive revitalization. After years of decline and a lack of new investment, today Buffalo is seeing impressive growth and transformation. That revitalization has helped to transform a number of sites throughout Buffalo that had long been vacant into new hubs of energy and activity. In an effort to help build on that success GSA should do everything in its power to ensure that the Dillon Courthouse is quickly put into valuable re-use and does not become a step backward or a black hole in an otherwise growing downtown.

Thank you in advance for your attention to this important matter. Should you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact our offices.


Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator​

Brian Higgins
Member of Congress


Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper and Buffalo Niagara River Land Trust collaborate to transform a brownfield on Scajaquada Creek

Buffalo NY - The transformation of Scajaquada Creek gains momentum with a new waterfront park project led by Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper and the Buffalo Niagara River Land Trust. On Monday September 28, representatives from both organizations were joined by Congressman Brian Higgins, Senator Marc Panepinto and local community groups at a ribbon cutting ceremony to commence their collaborative efforts to demolish a condemned building and create a publicly accessible waterfront park and paddle-sport launch at 1660 Niagara Street in Buffalo. The nearly $850,000 project, located near the intersection of Niagara and Tonawanda streets, is made possible through grant funds from the New York State Canal Corporation, the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, and the New York State Power Authority through the Buffalo and Erie County Greenway Fund Standing Committee. Alan Bozer, Chairman of the Buffalo and Erie County Greenway Fund Standing Committee, attended to represent the Standing Committee.

Riverkeeper and the Buffalo Niagara Land Trust are working to reconnect the community with Scajaquada Creek which has significant cultural, historical, and ecological value, but still remains largely inaccessible to the community. The future waterfront park will remedy a major gap identified in the Niagara River Greenway, complement the City of Buffalo's extensive investments along the Niagara Street corridor, and help breathe new life into neighborhoods currently cut off from its waterfront.

"For generations, Scajaquada Creek has been an abandoned waterway that still suffers from pollution and limited public access," said Jill Jedlicka, executive director of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper. "There are significant restoration planning efforts underway, thanks to recent years of strong collaboration between the government and non-profit sectors. While this work is happening, we can take additional steps to improve the creek corridor. Just like we have seen in the Buffalo River and the Outer Harbor, by prioritizing public access and water quality, the increased community use of our waterways can play an important role in stimulating additional investment and recovery."

"This project embodies all of the challenges the Buffalo Niagara Land Trust was created to resolve. Located on an urban brownfield, severely dilapidated privately owned buildings have hid the creek from the public for years. Through these generous grants and important partnership, this project will reclaim the space for environmental remediation, public fishing and boating access. We hope it is the start of many similar projects along the region's waterfront," said Adam Walters, Board President for the Trust.

Congressman Brian Higgins stated, "This project, creating a new park and public space along the waterfront, compliments millions of dollars in federal funding supporting reconstruction and enhancements to Niagara Street. As a result, we will have improved access to our city and the water's edge for local neighbors and visitors entering this critical gateway."

There is a lack of public access to Scajaquada Creek, Black Rock Canal and the Niagara River along the Niagara Street corridor, separating residents from Wester New York's fresh water resources. This project will contribute to an expanding "Blueway Trail" of paddle access points and launches throughout Western New York, activating the waterfront with recreational opportunities for residents and tourists alike.

"As Buffalo’s economy continues to grow, more and more of our Brownfield sites are becoming ripe for redevelopment and reuse," said Mayor Byron W. Brown. "Today’s demolition begins the process of transforming an area of blight into a publicly accessible waterfront park and paddle-sport launch, complementing the city’s $16.3 million infrastructure investment along the Niagara Street corridor and continuing our commitment to improved water quality and increased community use of our waterways. I’m grateful for this public-private partnership and investment in Buffalo’s continuing resurgence.”

"Today, Riverkeeper and the Buffalo Niagara River Land Trust expand on their continuous efforts to create local access to our waterfront which has long been denied," said Senator Marc Panepinto. "This project is a collaborative and shining example of government working together on all levels to stimulate Buffalo's growing Blue Economy, reclaim deserted space for environmental remediation and create public fishing and boat access. Thanks to Riverkeeper's vision, the creation of this new waterfront park will continue to draw residents to the emerging Niagara Street corridor and reconnect them to the waterfront they deserve."

This opportunity for a waterfront park was identified as a priority through a land acquisition feasibility study, conducted by Riverkeeper and the Buffalo Niagara River Land Trust with support from the Buffalo and Erie County Greenway Fund Standing Committee. The Buffalo and Erie County Greenway Fund Standing Committee, which is funded by the New York Power Authority as part of a settlement agreement related to the 50-year federal operating license of the Niagara Power plant, awarded $601,981 to Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper for the implementation of this project.

Local stakeholders also identified this opportunity for a waterfront park during the process of multiple planning efforts designed to revitalize the Riverwalk through the Black Rock-Riverside community. The project will also aid in meeting the goal of improving public access to Scajaquada Creek, identified as a key priority of the Niagara River Greenway Plan (2007). This project has an outpouring of support from the community including the Scajaquada Canoe Club, Black Rock Historical Society, Believe in Black Rock, Grant Amherst Business Association, Rediscover Riverside, Black Rock Riverside Alliance, and Black Rock Riverside Good Neighbor Planning Alliance. The vision for the site is for it to be developed into an enhanced, publicly-accessible waterfront park, with living infrastructure and a universally-accessible paddle sport launch.

This project builds on the City of Buffalo's work at Broderick Park, extensive streetscape improvements to Niagara Street from City Hall to Ontario Street to include complete street bicycle and pedestrian features, water-protective landscaping, and public art; and the Better Buffalo Fund incentives for private investment along the corridor.

The Buffalo Niagara River Land Trust was formed in 2012 to acquire and manage lands along Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the Niagara River and their tributaries for habitat conservation/restoration; water conservation including filtration and groundwater recharge; and passive and active water recreation including boating, fishing, swimming, birding, walking/running and biking. For more information about Buffalo Niagara River Land Trust, please visit or contact Adam Walters, Board President, at (716) 536-2859 or

Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper is a community-based organization dedicated to protecting the quality and quantity of water, while connecting people to water. We do this by cleaning up pollution from our waterways, restoring fish and wildlife habitat, and enhancing public access through greenways that expand parks and open space. For more information about Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, please visit or contact Susan Kornacki, Communications and Development Manager, at (716) 852-7483 ext. 38 or

The Buffalo and Erie County Greenway Fund Standing Committee makes grants of $2 million annually through an agreement of the New York Power Authority with the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, the City of Buffalo and the County of Erie. Grants by the Standing Committee benefit projects that are consistent with the Niagara Greenway Plan. For more information about the Buffalo and Erie County Greenway Fund Standing Committee, please visit: or contact Alan J. Bozer, Committee Chairman, at (716) 504-5700 or



Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) announced today that Buffalo biopharmaceutical company Cleveland BioLabs, Inc. has been awarded a grant of up to $6.6 million from the Department of Defense.  This award will fund a clinical study designed to support a Biologics License Application (BLA) for entolimodas a medical radiation countermeasure.

“Groundbreaking scientific progress is happening right here in Western New York,” said Congressman Brian Higgins. “This significant federal investment by the Department of Defense speaks to the innovative work being done at Cleveland BioLabs and Buffalo’s place as a leader in biopharmaceuticals and medicine.”

Entolimod is Cleveland BioLabs’ most advanced potential product. Its potential applications include reducing the risk of death from a radiation disaster and use as an immunotherapy for oncology.

Yakov Kogan, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer for Cleveland BioLabs, noted, “We are very grateful for Congressman Higgins’ support of Cleveland BioLabs and other Western New York companies involved in medical research. We are proud representatives of the growing base of biopharmaceutical development here in Buffalo and are committed to commercializing entolimod as a life-saving radiation countermeasure.”

Earlier this September, Cleveland BioLabs was awarded a $9.2 million contract from the Department of Defense to fund additional pivotal studies with entolimod supporting the same indication. With this new contract, the Department of Defense has awarded $15.8 million in new funding this month to Cleveland BioLabs for the advanced development of entolimod as a medical radiation countermeasure.

Cleveland BioLabs, Inc. is an innovative biopharmaceutical company developing novel approaches to activate the immune system and address serious medical needs. Their products have applications in radiation mitigation, cancer immunotherapy, and vaccines. The company has alliances with the Cleveland Clinic and Roswell Park Cancer Institute, the nation’s first cancer center.

Congressman Higgins is a strong supporter of medical research funding. This week, he spoke on the House Floor as a part of the Rally for Medical Research on the need to increase funding for the National Institutes of Health.


Higgins, Tonko, Hanna & Katko Applaud HHS Announcement of Revised Regulations for Treatment of Opioid Addiction

Congressmembers Brian Higgins (NY-26), Paul Tonko (NY-20), Richard Hanna (NY-22) and John Katko (NY-24) applauded an announcement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) of plans to revise rules related to the treatment of opioid addiction.  Changes proposed by HHS are similar to provisions included in the Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment, or TREAT Act (HR 2536), introduced by Higgins, Tonko, Hanna and Katko earlier this year. 

“Expanding treatment options including improved access to medication designed to help break the addiction will save lives,” said Congressman Higgins.  “These greatly needed rule changes will be welcomed by individuals seeking recovery and the families eager for effective treatment options.” 

Congressman Tonko added, “No individual seeking treatment for opioid addiction should be denied or delayed by the inability to find a treating physician due to these arbitrary caps. I applaud the action taken by HHS to update these regulations, which will help individuals in the Capital Region and beyond on the path to recovery” 

“I am pleased to see the Department of Health and Human Services recognize the urgency of updating these arbitrary caps, which are needlessly limiting access to treatment for our friends, family and neighbors battling opioid addiction,” said Congressman Hanna.  This will save lives and ensure people can get the help they need.”

“The opioid drug epidemic has affected individuals and families across all economic sectors in Central New York and throughout the United States.  Far too many lives have been lost because treatment is unavailable,” said Rep. John Katko. “I applaud HHS for taking action so that healthcare providers can offer comprehensive, lifesaving treatment to a greater number of individuals seeking care.”

This week HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced measures to combat the opioid epidemic including a focus on improving opioid prescribing practices, increasing access to naloxone (Narcan), and expanding the use of medication-assisted treatment (MAT).  MAT combines the use of medication (buprenorphine) with counseling and behavioral therapies to treat substance abuse disorders.  To close the gap of those who need MAT and those who are able to access it, HHS will revise the prescribing limits for buprenorphine. 

This action reflects the goals of the TREAT Act aimed at improving access to medication assisted treatment by increasing the number of patients a buprenorphine prescriber can treat and expanding the ability to prescribe buprenorphine to nurse practitioners and physician assistants.  Higgins, Tonko, Hanna and Katko also led a letter sent to the HHS Secretary in July calling on the Department to raise the limits on the number of prescribers authorized to prescribe medication aimed at lessening opioid addiction. 

Currently, there is an enormous disparity between those who can prescribe opioids, and those who can prescribe treatments for opioid addiction. Over 800,000 physicians can write controlled substance prescriptions, but only about 30,000 can prescribe the medication used to treat opioid addiction.  Prescribers of buprenorphine are limited to treating 30 patients in the first year, and up to 100 in year two and beyond. Of the 2.5 million people who currently need treatment for opioid abuse disorder, fewer than 1 million are receiving it. 

Prescription opioid abuse resulted in more than 400,000 emergency department visits in 2011, and costs health insurers an estimated $72 billion annually in medical costs.  More than 145,000 people have died from prescription opioid overdoses in the last decade.  


Higgins Invites Response to Love Center’s Sister Johnice and Niagara University President Father Maher to Washington, DC for Events with Pope Francis

Next week Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) will be joined by Sister Mary Johnice Rzadkiewicz and Father James Maher as he travels to Washington, DC for a visit by His Holiness Pope Francis to the United States. 

“Pope Francis is leading the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics with a message of service, acceptance, humility and love,” said Congressman Brian Higgins.  “I welcome the Pope’s visit in Washington, and welcome Western New Yorkers engaging these same principles right here in our community.”

Sister Mary Johnice Rzadkiewicz has served as Executive Director of the Response to Love Center providing clothing, food, education, career services, comfort, community and spiritual guidance to residents on the East Side of Buffalo, NY for 30 years. Sister credits an encounter with Mother Teresa as impetus for the Center’s creation.  A Felician Franciscan nun for more than 50 years, Sr. Johnice also served in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake and at Ground Zero in 2001.    

Sister Johnice said, "The invitation to attend the joint session of Congress in the House Chamber, as guest of Congressman Brian Higgins, is a Gift. As I attend this historic and special event, I will take in my heart, my family, the Staff, Volunteers and Friends at Response to Love Center, the Felician Sisters and all of Western New York. I will pray for the blessing of Holy Father Francis to be with all of us.  I pray that I may listen and reflect; upon returning, may the Grace of God give me insight and courage to respond to the message that will be shared."

Father James Maher serves as the 26th President of Niagara University, a 158-year old Catholic institution dedicated to education and the Vincentian tradition of service to the poor and underserved.  Under Fr. Maher’s leadership the University’s staff and students are actively committed to serving the people and city of Niagara Falls through the Levesque Institute and programs like ReNU Niagara.   Fr. Maher previously served as the executive vice president of student services and mission, and he was the executive director of the Vincentian Institute for Social Action at St. John’s University in New York City where he organized a Run Against Hunger. 

“I am very grateful to Congressman Higgins for inviting me to accompany him to the White House for this historic event,” said the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., president of Niagara University. “I look forward to being in the presence of His Holiness, a remarkable Catholic leader who has inspired individuals of differing faiths to advance the common good through his visible model of service and humility. Pope Francis has articulated his deep desire to change the world by serving those in need, which is a mission shared by the members of our campus community at Niagara.”

White House Visit:

At 9am on Wednesday, September 23, Niagara University President Father James Maher will join Congressman Higgins at the White House as the President and First Lady welcome His Holiness to Washington, DC. 

Canonization Mass:

Sister Johnice was selected to represent the Diocese of Buffalo at the Canonization mass of Padre Junipero Serra led by Pope Francis at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC on Wednesday, September 23rd at 4:15pm.  Father Maher and Congressman Higgins may attend as well. This mass, the first canonization ever held in the United States, will grant sainthood to Padre Junipero Serra, a Franciscan Friar who, during the 18th century, founded the missions in California. 

Address to Congress:

Sister Johnice will be the guest of Congressman Higgins in the House Chamber as Pope Francis addresses a joint session of Congress at 10am on Thursday, September 24.  Father Maher will view the Pope’s address alongside the public on the West Lawn of the Capitol Building. 

A number of Western New Yorkers who requested tickets through Congressman Higgins’ office will also join the public viewing of the Pope’s address to Congress on the Capitol’s West Front.  Many local residents attending the outdoor live broadcast of the Pope’s remarks are affiliated with Western New York churches, schools and service organizations including: St. Gianne’s Outreach Center, Gerard Place, Response to Love Center, Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, Canisius College, Niagara University, Villa Maria College, 14 Holy Helpers Church and St. William’s Parish in West Seneca, St. Timothy’s in Tonawanda and Christ the King in Amherst.  



Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) joined advocates and lawmakers on Capitol Hill today as part of the Rally for Medical Research, an annual event to encourage Congress to increase funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and raise awareness about the need for investment in medical research. On the House Floor, Higgins added to the push for more medical research dollars.

The NIH is the greatest supporter of medical research in the world, with twenty-seven distinct Institutes and Centers, including the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Yesterday, the NCI released a report detailing which research projects will not receive funding unless Congress acts to restore its purchasing power and maintains funding increases. At a time when scientific opportunity has never been greater, it is critical to increase investment, instead of preventing medical breakthroughs.

NIH efforts have directly produced 6,659 unique patents from 2003 to 2012. An estimated 1.35 million deaths are prevented per year as a result of NIH-funded research on cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. In addition to public health benefits, NIH innovation bolsters private sector economic growth and helps maintain the United States’ status as a global leader in medical research and development.

(To access video click above or go to:

The text of Higgins’ remarks can be found below:

“Mr. Speaker:   Thousands of Americans are on Capitol Hill today to attend a Rally for Medical Research and demand increased funding for the National Institutes of Health.

“The NIH supports 400,000 American jobs. In fact 82 percent of its budget supports research conducted in every state in this nation. For every dollar of NIH funding generates $2.21 in local economic activity.

“The effects are obviously not only economic. Thanks in large part to National Institutes of Health: Deaths from heart disease are down 50% over the last 40 years. Deaths from cancer are down 20% since 1991. And the cure rate for childhood cancer cure is now 80%.

“From 1997 to 2003 Congress doubled funding for the National Institutes of Health. But since then, it has fallen by 25%, accounting for inflation. Just yesterday the National Cancer Institute released a report that identifies research that won’t be conducted unless Congress restores its purchasing power with sustained annual funding increases over the next decade. We must not let that happen.

“I urge this House to give the NIH the resources it needs to conduct the work our nation deserves.”

Congressman Higgins has championed increased medical research funding in Washington. This June, he joined Representatives Rosa DeLauro (CT-3) and Peter King (NY-2) to form the NIH Caucus to urge Congress to increase the purchasing power of the NIH. In February, Rep. Higgins introduced the Accelerating Biomedical Research Act (H.R. 531), which would increase the budget for the NIH by over $50 billion over six years.



The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC) Board of Directors met today and voted to accept Explore & More’s exciting revised plan for a children’s museum at Canalside.  Following the public meeting Explore & More Children’s Museum and ECHDC announced the plans to build a stand-alone building on a new parcel along the canal towpath in the South Aud Block.

Located on parcels A2.1 and A2.4 (see conceptual rendering and map here), the new building is expected to be four floors and will house a world-class children’s museum that tells the stories of Buffalo through eight educational play zones.  

The new location is a switch from the original parcels selected for the Museum in 2012, but better aligns with ECHDC’s plans to create a cultural corridor at Canalside. The new location and new building configuration also provide Explore & More with more usable square footage, 42,900 square feet of a stand-alone building, compared to the original plans for Explore & More to occupy approximately 39,080 square feet in a larger mixed-use building. The building’s new location opens up more outdoor programming space for the Museum along the canal towpaths, as well. 

“Canalside’s future is looking brighter than ever as we move forward with improved plans for the Explore & More Children’s Museum,” said ECHDC Chairman Robert Gioia. “ECHDC shares Explore & More’s optimism and enthusiasm for a children’s museum on the South Aud Block. The museum will add to our success for making Canalside a year-round attraction for all ages. “

“This is a win-win for Explore & More and ECHDC, and most importantly, for the children and families of Buffalo Niagara,” said Matt Davison, Explore & More Board President.  “The increases in usable space inside and out will enable Explore & More to engage more visitors, while the stand-alone building will allow for more sponsorship opportunities.  Both of those add up to greater sustainability.”

The term sheet for the project, voted on by the ECHDC Board today, will now be translated into a legally binding contract, after which ECHDC will submit an RFP for the building’s construction.  ECHDC is contributing $9 million toward the core and shell of the building, while Explore & More is raising capital funds to cover core and shell costs above that $9 million, interior build out, and the construction of the exhibits.  ECHDC will hold a 40-year lease for the Museum at $1 per year.

“NYPA is excited to provide funding for this project, which will take Canalside to its next level of success,” said Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA president and CEO. “Buffalo deserves a world-class children’s museum that will be a vital education and cultural hub, not to mention a lot of fun to visit.”

To date, Explore & More has raised $7.3 million in its Play It Forward Capital Campaign.  With anticipated ground breaking in late 2016, Explore & More will open in the South Aud Block of Canalside in late 2018.

“Unique features create added energy at Canalside and grow public interest in rediscovering the waterfront as a destination,” said Congressman Brian Higgins.  “Explore & More Children’s Museum has a respected track record in Western New York and this new location will enhance family-friendly features in Downtown Buffalo and along our waterfront.”  

“Cultural organizations play a significant role in Buffalo’s economic resurgence,” said Mayor Byron Brown.  “This is another great day for Buffalo and Western New York children and families.  The plan for the Explore & More Children’s Museum will enable the museum to touch the lives of even more young people and drive more economic opportunity to Buffalo by bringing high quality children’s exhibitions and educational programs to the downtown waterfront at Canalside.”

"Today is a huge step forward for Canalside and the families of Western New York," said Senator Tim Kennedy. "Once again, Canalside is leading the way in the revitalization of Downtown Buffalo, thanks to the efforts of leaders like Governor Cuomo. As a father of three young children, I look forward to bringing my family to the new Explore & More Children's Museum, and I thank ECHDC Chairman Robert Gioia for his dedication to this important project."

Senator Marc Panepinto said,"This is yet another page in the success story that is Canalside. With the addition of this more than 42,000 square foot Explore & More Children's Museum, ECHDC's transformative efforts have once again placed Canalside on a continued track for success as a year-round, family-friendly attraction. As we continue to expand our offerings along the waterfront, I am thrilled that families from across the region will be able to grow and share in that experience along with us."

Assemblyman Sean Ryan said, "The Explore & More Children's Museum will be an excellent addition to our ever-expanding waterfront in the City of Buffalo. The museum will be a great destination for families, and will offer yet another option to the growing list of attractions at Canalside. I am pleased to see that the momentum at Canalside continues with today's exciting announcement." 

County Executive Mark Poloncarz said, “The addition of Explore and More Children’s Museum to Canalside will result in more families coming to our revitalized waterfront and spending some time discovering all that’s going on downtown. Canalside has proved to be a hit with locals and tourists alike, and I look forward to seeing even more people visiting our beautiful waterfront.”

About Canalside

Canalside is a growing regional destination and entertainment district, situated on 21 historic acres along downtown Buffalo’s emerging waterfront on the Buffalo River. Canalside earns its name from its storied past, when the Erie Canal Harbor was built in 1825 as the western terminus of the Erie Canal. Until five years ago, the land was barren and inaccessible, but the area has been reclaimed by the state’s Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. and developed with millions of dollars in public and private investment. With more than 1,000 yearly events and nearly 1 million annual visitors, Canalside is fast becoming the go-to place for in- and out-of-towners of all ages to learn, play and relax. For more information, visit

About Explore and More

Celebrating its 21st year in operation, Explore & More Children’s Museum provides an environment for creative play and learning through hands-on exhibits, activities and programs that inspire creativity, curiosity and imagination.

Explore & More Children’s Museum is currently located at 300 Gleed Avenue in East Aurora, and will open in the South Aud Block at Canalside on the Buffalo waterfront in 2018.  For more information, visit or call (716) 655-5131.


Statement by Congressman Brian Higgins on Plans for Buffalo’s Outer Harbor

“This summer a record number of bicyclists, runners, families and visitors flocked to the Outer Harbor to bike and walk the trails, visit the parks, take in the lighthouse, ride the ferry, and be close to the water.  Last summer the public sent a clear message that their vision for the future of the Outer Harbor includes more access that brings people to the water’s edge, improves public space, and adds amenities and places to enjoy the natural beauty of Buffalo’s front yard.  The new plan released by the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation is a positive step forward in giving the public what they’ve asked for. 

“Buffalo has tremendous momentum right now, but momentum is best when it is sustained. The $5 million investment in projects from the “Buffalo Billion” that will quickly improve the visitor experience provides a realistic and achievable approach that allows for continued momentum on our waterfront, but what is good for one side of Fuhrmann Boulevard is also good for the other side.  To sustain momentum, Buffalo needs a similar approach and investments made at the property which will be transferred from the New York Power Authority (NYPA) to ECHDC.  The success of the bike ferry is expected to grow next summer and the public wants and deserves more than a rusty fence as their welcome mat as they disembark and begin their enjoyment of the Outer Harbor.  With ECHDC’s takeover of this property comes responsibility for public improvements and amenities on that property that match the new public demand at this landing site.  I urge ECHDC to quickly embrace the public access approach along this property as well.

“The original plan by outside consultants represents an expensive reminder of a lesson we learned several years ago, that Buffalo does not need outsiders to build our waterfront when the best ideas come from the people right here, who live in and love Western New York.”