Pubdate: Tue, 05 Jul 2005
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2005 Calgary Herald
Author: Colette Derworiz
Bookmark: (Methadone)


Ald. Madeleine King has asked the city to come up with new rules to 
deal with methadone clinics after hearing there may be a third drug 
addiction treatment facility operating in her ward.

Last week, the inner-city alderman raised concerns about a private 
clinic that quietly opened in the Beltline and led to fears of 
escalating drug use in the area.

King, who represents Ward 8, took the issue to city council on Monday.

"I just found out about another methadone clinic in my ward," she 
said at the meeting. "It really brought home that we have absolutely 
no idea how many methadone clinics there are in this city.

"And obviously from a planning perspective, they are very different 
than a medical clinic."

King asked the city to come up with a separate category in the land 
use bylaw for approving methadone clinics so aldermen would be 
alerted when one is opening in their ward.

But the city's law department said it wasn't aware of any other 
cities that have differentiated between the two.

"The focus of what is happening in a medical clinic largely reflects 
what is happening with the doctor's medical practice," said Craig 
Meyers, a lawyer with the city.

"Some doctors specialize in treating geriatrics, some in treating 
other types of illnesses. But I don't know that it could be possible 
to identify every medical clinic," Meyers said.

However, city staff will consult with the Calgary Health Region and 
provincial government about ways to get a handle on regulating the 
clinics and bring a report back to council by October.

The controversy over a private methadone clinic operating in Calgary 
ignited last week after at least one fatal drug overdose on the 
streets and fears of escalating drug use in the area since it began operating.

The First Street Medical Clinic, which runs a methadone program at 
1010 1st St. S.W., opened in 2003.

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

People taking methadone are treated at a handful of clinics in 
Alberta: two in Calgary, two in Edmonton and one in Red Deer.

Since the controversy broke last week, however, King said she has 
heard there could be a third Calgary clinic operating out of the Holy 
Cross hospital site.

"I am just furious," she said. "I just think it's unbelievable.

"We have no idea how these patients are being treated. There seem to 
be no controls about the way the clinics operate."

No one from the College of Physicians and Surgeons could be reached 
for comment late Monday.

However, they said last week that while there are no regulations for 
methadone clinics, physicians must have a special licence to 
prescribe the treatment. There are about 40 doctors in Alberta with 
that privilege, according to the college's website.

The college recently released a draft set of standards and guidelines 
for methadone programs to follow.

The new rules, which include how to determine if patients should take 
methadone home, could be implemented as early as December.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Beth