Methadone clinic coming to Huntsville
HUNTSVILLE – In less than two weeks a methadone clinic will be up and running in Huntsville’s downtown core, much to the surprise of residents and politicians alike.
A Google streetview image shows where the Methadone clinic will be located in Huntsville.
While the process and opening may seem very hush-hush to the general public, operators with the Ontario Addiction Treatment Centre (OATC) assure they weren’t trying to covertly setup shop in the community.
“It’s not a clandestine operation that we’re trying to sneak in by the light of night and hide from everybody,” said Dr. Michael Varenbut, an executive director with OATC. “We have to obtain permits, we do that through the proper channels through the Town. The zoning has to be proper. We’re not hiding from anyone.”
Dr. Varenbut said based on the OATC’s experience it’s better to hold an open house and share information with the community once the clinic is operational so residents can see how it works.
“Doing it beforehand serves no purpose and there’s no requirement for us to do it ahead of time,” he said.
The OATC serves about 10,000 residents across Ontario with clinics established in a number of communities from Windsor to Thunder Bay.
With nearby clinics in Bracebridge and Parry Sound, there was no study conducted to assess the need for a location in Huntsville. Instead, the opening comes based on need requested by patients, area clinicians and community agencies.
The process has been in the works for about a year, with about six months spent on choosing a location.
Ontario Addiction Treatment Centres will be opening the clinic tentatively on June 25 on Manominee Street, at the back of the Brendale Square Plaza.
“It’s controversial for those that make it controversial because of the NIMBY, not in my backyard, phenomenon. It’s a medical clinic like any other medical clinic,” said Varenbut.
He said there’s a lot misconception, ignorance and lack of knowledge when it comes to methadone clinics.
“We’re not treating your typical downtown Toronto street person who is injecting heroin. We’re treating your neighbours, my neighbours, your family members and people who live in town already,” he said. “They’re living and working and contributing to life in the local community. The idea is to provide them with the care they need where they live, as opposed to travelling for hours on end.”
Methadone clinics treat patients who are addicted to opiate substances such as morphine, codine, or oxycodone, as well as heroine. The clinic does not treat for things like alcohol or cocaine addiction.
Patients sign a six-page contract about what’s expected of their behaviour. If they cause any issues within or nearby the clinic, their treatment is terminated, said Varenbut.
“Once they (residents) see the benefits in the community, once they realize that it’s their own brothers and sisters, family members, friends and neighbours who are actually getting better they typically calm down quite a bit,” said Varenbut.
While residents may have been surprised to hear about such a clinic opening here they are not necessarily opposed to it.
“I would like to reserve judgment (on the clinic) because these people do need help,” said a resident who lives in the vicinity of the plaza and wished to remain anonymous. “We are all in this together… I’m not against it.”
“I support them if necessary. But I am concerned about putting one in a semi-residential area. We’ll see how it turns out, but I can’t imagine it’ll be good,” said another resident, who did not want to be named.
Having a methadone clinic in Huntsville will increase the chance of success for area residents trying to break their addiction cycle said Rick Williams, commissioner of community services for the District Municipality of Muskoka.
“There’s accessibility issues that occasionally I hear about from people who require treatment and it’s been costly, historically, to help people get to treatment (locations),” he said. “So a local service will certainly be of benefit to clients requiring methadone and to ourselves on a cost basis.”
But Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norm Miller doesn’t agree with the methadone treatment process.
“I think a methadone clinic provides maybe some temporary relief but it is still keeping addicts addicted,” he said. “I think a better policy would be some sort of treatment to help addicts get off of drugs versus just substituting another drug. I really don’t agree with the policy, especially in an environment where we have scarce health care dollars and we’re seeing cutbacks around the province as the McGuinty government negotiates with doctors. So I think we have to look very carefully where health-care dollars are spent and I just don’t agree with the approach.”
The Ministry of Health and Long-term Care provides about $2.3 million annually in funding to methadone treatment clinics across the province.
Physicians treating patients at methadone clinics are required to complete specific training to prescribe methadone by the College of Physicians and Surgeons and Health Canada.
Huntsville Mayor Claude Doughty is pleased the clinic is coming to the community.
“These clinics are an important harm reduction service to those most vulnerable in our community,” he said, adding that, “Huntsville is a community that cares for all its citizens, regardless of individual circumstances.”
For residents who have any doubts about the benefits of the clinic here, Varenbut said, “Time will be the proof.” The clinic is expected to announce an information session after it opens, to answer questions community members may have.