The medical director of the newest and fifth methadone clinic to open its doors in downtown Brantford isn’t surprised concerns are being raised by businesses in the area.
Dr. Clement Sun, of ACT Brantford, has heard the concerns before but says people need to understand that methadone clinics offer a valuable service and have changed.
« In the past, doctors didn’t really receive the education they needed about addiction and painkillers, » Sun said. « That’s changing and we’re learning more about addiction all the time.
« We’re changing, we’re evolving and we provide counselling and support and we set standards. »
The goal at ACT is to get at least 60% of the people they serve back into the workforce. They also try to reunite their clients with their families.
Ward 2 Coun. John Utley raised the issue of the number of methadone clinics in the downtown earlier this week, saying the city’s Downtown Business Improvement Area association is concerned.
Keri Korfmann, head of the Downtown BIA, has said her group understands the need for the clinics, but is concerned that their operations will be affected by having so many clinics in one area. She thinks the clinics should be spread out.
The issue will be the subject of a discussion by city councillors at a future committee meeting.
« The people we treat are just like you and me, » Sun said. « They are people who had a problem and haven’t been able to cope. »
The people who need the treatment range in age from teens to people in their 70s and come from all walks of life. It takes, on average, about two-and-a-half years to help a client beat an addiction to substances like heroin.
Counselling and offering support to clients complements the use of the methadone, which helps clients deal with their cravings and at the same time ease the symptoms associated with withdrawal.
ACT has 11 clinics in Ontario, including four in Hamilton.
Its Brantford location is at 193 Colborne St. and opened this year. Previously, ACT and Towards Recovery Clinics Inc. operated the Victoria Park Clinic at the back of St. Andrew’s United Church. But the partnership ended earlier this year following a disagreement, and ACT then opened its own clinic at 193 Colborne St.
The disagreement is now the subject of legal action, Sun said.
Meanwhile, figures provide by Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care show how widespread addiction to substances like heroin and prescription narcotics is across Ontario.
« Ontario has the highest rate of prescription narcotic use in Canada, » David Jensen, a spokesperson for the health ministry said in an email response to questions from The Expositor. « The estimated social, economic and health costs for Ontario resulting from untreated opioid use exceed $1 billion, including costs associated with law enforcement, use of the criminal justice system as well as lost productivity due to morbidity and premature mortality. » The ministry provides $11.85 million a year to treat nearly 36,000 people across Ontario who are receiving methadone treatment. That is in addition to fees paid to physicians through OHIP and the cost of drugs through the Ontario Drug Benefit program, he said.
As well, the ministry provides just under $1.6 million to a range of organizations to improve services and access to methadone treatment programs. Organizations that receive funding include the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the Ontario Pharmacists’ Association, the College of Physicians and Surgeons and the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario.
The ministry is committed to treating those addicted to heroin and prescription narcotics but it also has a monitoring system in place to detect unusual or inappropriate behaviours with respect to methadone treatment, Jensen said.