Pubdate: Thu, 30 Jun 2005
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2005 Calgary Herald
Author: Colette Derworiz
Bookmark: (Chronic Pain)
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Methadone)
Bookmark: (Oxycontin/Oxycodone)


Residents Fear Rising Drug Use And Dangers

A private methadone clinic that quietly opened near downtown is 
creating controversy after at least one fatal overdose on the streets 
and fears of escalating drug use in the area.

The First Street Medical Clinic, which houses a methadone program at 
1010 1st St. S.W., has been open for more than a year.

Methadone, which belongs to the opioid family of drugs, prevents 
withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting heroin, morphine or 
other opioids. It is considered a relatively inexpensive way to treat addicts.

But social service agencies and residents of Victoria Park and 
Victoria Crossing are raising concerns about the dangers for other 
homeless people and rising drug use in the area since the program 
started operating.

"The problems with regards to that clinic are much worse than I 
thought," said Ald. Madeleine King, who raised the issue with police 
Chief Jack Beaton during his annual update at a city hall committee 
meeting on Wednesday.

King, meanwhile, said she is trying to determine how the clinic 
opened without her or the community's knowledge.

Beaton said it was the first he'd heard about the concerns.

However, King said she met with community groups Tuesday night to 
discuss their growing concerns about the clinic.

"I've heard that a methadone clinic, if it is properly run, does not 
increase problems on the street," King said. "There were about six to 
eight people around that table and each one of them told of different 
aspects of how the behaviour in the street has gotten worse because of this."

Bill Leslie, a social worker at the First Street clinic, said they 
immediately started taking steps to deal with the problems after 
hearing about methadone being sold to street people not involved in the clinic.

"If they are not addicted or in chronic pain, it will kill," he said. 
"We had an instance two months ago where a . . . young individual 
drank methadone and died."

Leslie said he was told that a 24-year-old man died at the Mustard 
Seed Street Ministry after overdosing on methadone, although he noted 
it was uncertain whether it was stolen or purchased on the street.

Officials at the Mustard Seed declined to discuss whether there have 
been any deaths due to a methadone overdose.

But Floyd Perras, senior operating officer at the 11th Avenue S.E. 
shelter, said the shelter is concerned the nearby clinic is only open 
five days a week so it provides weekend and holiday packs to addicts 
getting treatment.

"It's being given away or sold to other people," he said, adding he 
doesn't know if the benefits of the clinic outweigh the risks of 
overdoses on the street.

According to Leslie, the clinic will be the only tenant in a building 
at 10th Avenue and 7th Street S.W. once city approvals are obtained.

He said the clinic now serves hundreds of patients, from white-collar 
workers to street people.

However, he said the clinic stopped giving out weekend packs to 
street people once they heard about the death.

"Because of that, when they are living in the shelter, they don't 
have take-home medication," Leslie said. "We just can't take that chance."

But the homeless shelters, business and residents in the inner-city 
neighbourhood said they are also concerned the clinic is attracting 
drug dealers to the area.

"It's not good for my business," said Stuart Allan, owner of

Buzzards Restaurant and Bar, located across the street from the clinic.

He said he regularly finds drug paraphernalia littering his property 
and sometimes sees people shooting up in the alleys.

Eileen Stan, executive director of the Victoria Crossing business 
revitalization zone, said she has heard similar concerns about 
increased drug use in the area.

She added, however, that the other issue is the proximity of the 
clinic to the homeless shelters.

"It's not that we don't support them," she said, noting the clinic 
just popped up out of nowhere without opportunity for public consultation.

Stan said it's important to achieve an appropriate balance in the 
community, which is working on a major revitalization to rid the area 
of problems.

At the clinic, patients were disheartened to hear the clinic was 
facing criticism.

"It's the bad ones that ruin it for the good ones that need it," said 
Dylan Roy, who has been

taking methadone since last December after going through a painful 
surgery and developing an addiction to OxyContin, a powerful 
prescription painkiller.

He said his daily treatment, which comes in small brown bottles mixed 
with orange juice, has changed his life.

Leslie added the clinic is doing everything it can to eliminate abuse 
of the medication, noting there have always been drug problems in the 
inner-city area.
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MAP posted-by: Beth