Pubdate: Thu, 09 Jul 2009
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2009 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Colette Derworiz, Staff Writer


Hostile Meeting Final Straw: Facility Lawyer

A methadone clinic that has been forced to move three times in six
years will permanently shut down this summer after being intimidated
by "irrational hotheads," the clinic's lawyer said Wednesday.

Hugh Ham, who represents Second Chance Recovery, said the clinic will
close its doors and leave Calgary as soon as it can find alternatives
for its 500 patients.

The decision came less than 24 hours after hundreds of residents
showed up at a Braeside community meeting to vent their anger at the
clinic's arrival in their neighbourhood earlier this week.

"This is a perfect example of not in my backyard," Ham said.

"If not in this backyard, where?"

Ham cautioned the clinic's closure could push dozens of people back
into a life of addiction.

The clinic's patients range from street addicts to people addicted to
painkillers to doctors and nurses taking drugs to cope with long hours
in hospitals, he said.

Methadone is considered a relatively inexpensive way of getting those
addicts off of heroin, morphine and some prescription painkillers.

The clinic has moved three times since it opened in 2003 and faced
opposition from its neighbours every time.

Ham said the final straw, however, was the hostile meeting held in
Braeside on Tuesday night.

Hundreds of irate residents packed the community centre to suggest the
clinic wasn't welcome in their neighbourhood because it would lead to
decreased property values and crime in the neighbourhood.

Shouts of "not in my backyard" and "no clinic here" rang out as the
area alderman tried to address the crowd.

Ham said the staff has also been threatened with damage to the clinic
and their vehicles.

"The clinic staff and doctors are now intimidated," he said.

"They have received threats so we will be shutting the clinic down as
soon as that can be physically arranged."

Ham said they wanted to make the announcement as soon as possible
because they wanted "to get those irrational hotheads in Braeside to
back off."

Ald. Brian Pincott, who represents the area, could not be reached for
comment late Wednesday.

But the president of Braeside community association said emotions ran
high at the meeting after the clinic's staff failed to show up to
explain how it operates and why it's important.

"It was adding insult to injury right from the get-go because there
was nobody there to answer questions," said Kim Edwards.

She said, however, she was saddened to hear there were threats made
against the clinic.

"I would like to think Braeside is not that kind of neighbourhood, but
. . . you are dealing with people's homes and their kids riding the
same public transit to school and all of the fear that goes with that.
Because none of that fear was dealt with, it just escalated."

Edwards said while some residents will be pleased to hear the clinic
is closing its doors, it's unfortunate its operators don't plan to
reopen in Calgary.

"These people need help and Calgarians have always been known for
their generosity," she said.

"We sure didn't portray that in this instance--and it's not everybody.
There's a handful that went over the edge and it just saddens me."

Ham said his clients couldn't speak at the meeting due to a legal
dispute between the mall's owner and its lease with Medicentres, which
the methadone clinic is operating under.

"If the landlords don't want you, if the community doesn't want you,
if city hall doesn't want you, if the province won't do anything, get
the message," he said.

"The message is get out of town."

Ham said the staff will work with the city's only other methadone
clinic at the Sheldon Chumir Centre in the Beltline to see if they
accommodate some of the patients. 
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