The Methadone clinic and pharmacy issue in London Ontario has been long-standing, as evidenced in my first post on this issue almost a year ago, that was a reflection looking a year back. In a nutshell, a new Methadone clinic was proposed, a community association opposed it, and Council delayed the establishment of any new clinics until it could have full public consultation, and create by-laws to address public concerns.
The upside of the whole discussion and consultation is that absolutely everyone has agreed on the importance of Methadone Maintenance Therapy (MMT) as part of the spectrum of recovery and reducing the harm of substance use in our community. So, there will be more clinics, but the real concern is the public perception of what happens in the area of a clinic when a large number of people in recovery and the drug dealers who prey on them are around. And, although I feel that some of these concerns are based in undue prejudices, if the public wants set-backs from schools, we can have set-backs from schools.
And, set-backs from schools, community centres, and parks are largely what is proposed in the new by-laws. There is also considerations of at what point a physician’s practice becomes a Methadone clinic, and what point a pharmacy becomes a Methadone pharmacy (over 30 patients/day in both cases). If you have a look at page 27 of the staff recommendations, you will see that this still allows for plenty of new clinics to open. Although initially concerned about the process, only one point remains that worries me in terms of limiting access to treatment: the requirement for public site plan consultation. Now, you might say that this flies in the face of yesterday’s concern about the lack of listening to the public. However, in this case there are explicit directions in terms of the siting of clinics, the size, access to transit, and access to indoor waiting space. My concern is that public consultation will simply create a context where NIMBYism will run rampant with no value-add in terms of developing the sites.
Now, however, the plot has thickened with a simple letter sent to Council from Barbara Hall, the Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. In the letter, Commissioner Hall points out that Kitchener tried a similar approach and was required to re-write due to “people zoning”, a process of discrimination against people experiencing a mental illness, including an addiction. Methadone clinics and pharmacies are medical centres, existing to treat people with medical conditions. Zoning these out of certain areas might simply be turned down at the Ontario Municipal Board.