Very early this year, the Northeast Town council told the landlord of the downtown Little Current business space where the withdrawal management clinic had been located for about three years that the clients of the clinic on that premises had been deemed to violate the town’s nuisance bylaw and so the town was invoking its authority to demand that the clinic be closed.
Not long after, council passed another bylaw establishing that medical clinics could only be housed on the property of the Manitoulin Centennial Manor or the Manitoulin Health Centre within the municipality. In response to questions on the topic at a subsequent meeting, council indicated that it would consider site-specific bylaws for other clinics that might want to do business within the Northeast Town, but this would be on a case-by-case basis.
Shortly following the Northeast Town’s blanket bylaw respecting new clinics, the Townships of Assiginack and Central Manitoulin passed similar legislation.
There was legitimate concern expressed at that time for the clients of the clinic that closed in Little Current mid-winter following the town’s intervention but, based on what two Manitoulin Island communities are doing (or will soon be doing) for their own citizens who had previously accessed the Little Current clinic, it appears that we can be cautiously optimistic that the closure of the Little Current facility set in motion the need to arrive at community-based solutions to addiction problems, specifically to prescription drug addictions.
The communities have rallied, as a news story last month indicated, and both M’Chigeeng and Wikwemikong have taken steps to service their own citizens who have addiction problems, using facilities and expertise the communities already have.
The Northeast Town took a bold step in expelling the clinic earlier this year and the council came in for some criticism, including a complaint to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, about its action.
But if plans unfold successfully in Wikwemikong and M’Chigeeng for community-based treatment and counselling, and there is no reason to believe this won’t be successful, then perhaps the action by the Northeast Town was the impetus required for other communities to consider treatment models suitable for their own particular constituents.
There is no reason to believe other than these will be successful and the leadership of Wikwemikong and M’Chigeeng deserve congratulations for meeting the challenge and establishing models other communities may follow.