Clinic relocation provides communities with opportunity

It’s clear that the location of a Manitoulin clinic, or perhaps several of them, where methadone clients can be seen and assessed and where they can access their treatment and, more importantly, counseling towards moving to “no addiction” status, has become a major concern since the Little Current methadone clinic’s landlord served its tenant with an eviction notice in early January.

There are, reputedly, about 200 clients accessing the methadone program on Manitoulin, the vast majority of them dealing with the Little Current location.

The Island’s medical community is rightly concerned about an appropriate local location for the clinic for, otherwise, methadone patients will have to find transportation (or have it provided for them) to access clinics in Espanola or Sudbury. Neither of these locations is ideal for most clients, in particular those people balancing family and work commitments along with once, twice (or even more frequent) trips per week to the methadone clinic.

Clearly, until the terrible epidemic of addiction to opiates is dealt with by our society and as long as methadone is to be made available to individuals with addictions, together with the counseling and education they need to help them lead un-addicted lives, this must happen somewhere close to home on purely practical grounds.

In time, this epidemic of opiate addictions will succumb to education and legislation, just as public drunkenness and impaired driving are no longer as much a part of our society as they were, even quite recently, and just as smoking is more and more deemed to be anti-social.

At least one other Island community is apparently considering hosting such a clinic to serve residents from its region. This may be the most practical model for other rural and Northern communities: a series of small clinics, community by community, where the delivery of the methadone product can more easily be demonstrated to be of secondary concern in comparison to front-line emphasis on education and rehabilitation.

The obvious comparison is to classroom sizes: educators are quick to point out, and parents and students certainly agree, that smaller class sizes and the corresponding shrinkage in teacher-pupil ratio means education is delivered more effectively and, in the long run, more efficiently as well.

While the loss of the downtown clinic location in Little Current is without doubt initially dislocating for both clients and members of the clinic practice, in the long run this should lead to a necessary rethinking of how all aspects of the program are delivered on Manitoulin and, as “necessity is the mother of invention,” such a rethinking will examine any flaws in the old model for the benefit of future clients.

As far as a new Little Current location is concerned, the Northeast Town council plans to regulate future clinics in its town through site-specific zoning regulations which will certainly not mean the end of such an enterprise but will allow the town’s administration and clinicians to work together towards a location suitable to all parties.

The front street methadone clinic in Little Current, scheduled for closure by mid-February, must be viewed as a Manitoulin pilot project in this treatment regimen.

While such treatment centres are still necessary, this gives clinicians the options of several sites around Manitoulin, bringing the staff to the clientele rather than the clientele to the staff. This could be accomplished by an itinerant staff, operating a mobile treatment unit that visits communities on a scheduled basis.

Site-specific zoning, which is not an unusual step, allows for a conversation among all parties that can avoid local political fallout from particular interest groups, such as the downtown Little Current merchants, in the “pilot project” example.

Hopefully, with the lessons learned, future Island locations will serve their clienteles even better than the original Little Current location.