Pubdate: Fri, 01 Jul 2005
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2005 Calgary Herald
Author: Colette Derworiz
Bookmark: (Methadone)


Controversial Centres Unregulated

Provincial medical authorities and the city are trying to get a handle on 
regulating methadone programs as controversy swirls around a private clinic 
that quietly opened in the Beltline.

The First Street Medical Clinic, which has a methadone program at 1010 1st 
St. S.W., opened about 18 months ago.

However, some social service agencies and businesses are upset about 
escalating drug use in the area and dangers for homeless people after a 
24-year-old man died when he overdosed on methadone he got on the street.

The clinic, which has changed its procedures since the death, was planning 
to move a few blocks west due to the concerns. But now the move is up in 
the air.

"We may have lost the new building," said Bill Leslie, a social worker at 
the First Street clinic. "It's a perfect location, and it has room for a 
waiting room and a pharmacy."

Methadone, an opioid , is a relatively inexpensive way of getting drug 
addicts off heroin, morphine, crack cocaine and some prescription painkillers.

Leslie said the amount of space in the new building -- at 10th Avenue and 
7th Street S.W. -- would result in less loitering on the streets and fewer 
problems for nearby businesses.

But he said his landlord is reconsidering the lease after hearing similar 
complaints from businesses in that area to those raised earlier this week.

Leslie said he hopes to explain the positives of the clinic to his landlord 
during a meeting on Tuesday.

He will meet Wed-nesday with Ward 8 Ald. Madeleine King, who raised the 
issue with the police chief earlier this week after community groups 
brought the problems to her attention.

So far, there is no indication from police that the clinic has led to 
increased crime in the area.

But King, who is trying to find out how the clinic opened without her or 
the community's knowledge, said she plans to bring the concerns to Monday's 
council meeting.

"It popped up from nowhere," she said, noting the city land use bylaws 
don't address methadone clinics.

City planners said the facility on 1st Street was approved in 2003 for 
retail use as a pharmacy and medical clinic while the new location is 
designated as a commercial/treatment facility. Both are accepted uses in 
the area, they say.

However, King said there should be a way to alert the ward alderman about a 
methadone clinic moving into their ward -- a provision the city will consider.

"This is one we have to look at to see if there is a planning issue that 
needs to be addressed," said David Watson, general manager of planning, 
development and assessments. "There certainly are social issues."

Stan Schwartzenberger, the city's manager of development and business 
licences, said King's request would be treated seriously.

King, meanwhile, is also concerned there appears to be no provincial 
regulations for methadone clinics.

"It's absolutely terrible," she said.

"There's an enormous hole."

People taking methadone are treated at a handful of clinics in Alberta, two 
in both Calgary and Edmonton and one in Red Deer. No guidelines exist, 
although only a few doctors have the College of Physicians' permission to 
prescribe the treatment.

"It's a rather new phenomenon for us," Cathy McCann, manager of physician 
prescribing practices with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of 
Alberta, said in an interview from Edmonton.

"The methadone clinics themselves are not directly regulated."

Earlier this week, however, the college released a draft set of standards 
and guidelines for methadone clinics to follow, including how to determine 
if patients should take methadone home when they can't go to the clinic.

The rules should be implemented by December, McCann said.

Leslie said the private methadone clinic is already adhering to the draft 
guidelines set out by the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

He would also welcome any regulations brought in by the city, he added.

"We're not here to work against people," Leslie said.

"We want to fit in."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom