Northeast Town orders methadone clinic off front street

LITTLE CURRENT—After reviewing several letters from downtown Little Current business owners pertaining to incidents involving patients of the Water Street methadone clinic, the Northeast Town sent a letter to the clinic building’s owners, the Robinson Pharmacy Group, informing them that the clinic must stop dispensing methadone within 30 days at that location or the company would be charged with nuisance under the municipality’s bylaw act.

“Everyone understands that people need medical treatment, both the BIA (Business Improvement Area) and the town have tried to express their concern to both the building owners and the clinic operator (Dr. Bryan Dressler) with the location of the clinic and its effect on downtown businesses and town residents, however nothing has been done,” said Northeast Town Mayor Al MacNevin during discussion at last week’s council meeting. “The concern is not with the treatment, it is with the location of the clinic.”

CAO Dave Williamson explained to council that many of the letters discussed one incident in particular regarding clients of the methadone clinic in December of 2012 when a fist fight broke out and the OPP had to be called.

“Our downtown business community has had ongoing concerns with the location of the methadone clinic operated by Dr. Bryan Dressler and have previously shared these with the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons (OCPS),” began a letter sent to both the OCPS and the Northeast Town from the BIA. “The most recent of these concerns relates to an incident on Saturday, December 8, 2012, when five male clients of Dr. Dressler’s methadone clinic, in broad daylight, at 11:10 am to be precise, began a fist fight in our downtown business area. The Ontario Provincial Police were called and officers arrived after the fight had ended and clients had left.”

The letter from the BIA goes on to say that the clinic has brought an “unwelcomed change to the small downtown retail community,” as well as mentioned that a public location is also “surely not useful to the morale and dignity of the methadone clinic’s clientele.”

“Additionally, other aspects of Dr. Dressler’s clientele have demonstrated anti-social behaviour in our downtown core, in particular shoplifting, that he clearly promised (at a meeting with our BIA members) would not happen,” continued the letter. “At the very least, Dr. Dressler should relocate his methadone clinic to a less public location. As it stands, this is located in office space centrally located in Manitoulin Island’s busiest downtown area.”

Council also reviewed letters from Deborah Turner, owner of Turners of Little Current, Manitoulin Expositor publisher R.L. McCutcheon, Reflections Hair Salon owner Denise Graham, Jim Bousquest, president and CEO of J.James Bousquet Realty Inc., Mieke Smulders, owner of The Water Street Bakery, and Kelly O’Hare, the owner of operator of the Anchor Bar and Grill.

All the letters also stress that they understand the importance of the clinic, but that it needs to be relocated outside of the downtown area.

“While I understand the need for this medical service and congratulate the people who are trying to deal with their addiction, I have to complain about the disruption that is happening,” Ms. O’Hare states in her letter.

“I do not argue that there may be a need for this type of treatment, but it boggles my mind at where it has been allowed to be placed,” writes Ms. Graham. “Certainly a medical facility would be a better front, allow easier access for its clients and allow for a level of anonymity for the client of the clinic.”

Council agreed with the concerns of the downtown business owners and also directed staff to look into amending the commercial bylaw to prevent businesses of the clinic’s nature from being allowed to operate in the downtown in the future.

“It’s a good idea to close the barn door before anything else gets in,” commented Councillor Michael Erskine.

After the council meeting, rumors circulated around Little Current that the Robinson Pharmacy Group had given an eviction notice to Dr. Dressler and his clinic. Though Dr. Dressler or the Robinson Pharmacy Group could not to be reached to confirm this, a letter to The Manitoulin Expositor (published in this week’s paper) from a patient of the clinic also states this information.

“The Little Current methadone clinic as of January first was given a 30-day eviction notice,” began the letter sent to The Expositor from Shawn Mandigo. “I cannot speak to the exact reasons behind this decision. The following letter is based upon my conversations with the doctor (Dr. Dressler), as well as the employees who work with/at the Little Current clinic.”

Mr. Mandigo’s letter goes on to talk about his personal experience with drug abuse, his treatment from Dr. Dressler and his success with the program.

“This (the closure of the clinic) would be preposterous,” concludes the letter. “There are currently about 200 people attending the Little Current methadone clinic. Closing the clinic on such short notice will wreak havoc not only on the clients, but to our community as well. I have nine months of sobriety, please don’t take that away from me.”

The Expositor also contacted Mr. Williamson regarding the possible eviction of Dr. Dressler and the clinic from its current building, but he said he “had nothing to officially share on the issue at this point in time.”

Robin Burridge