Alderman's Facebook status miffs opponents of methadone clinic

Southwest Calgary residents fighting a methadone clinic's move to their neighbourhood say they're not impressed with an online message their alderman posted joking about methadone.

Landlord trying to back out of lease with Second Chance Recovery

Calgary Ald. Brian Pincott's Facebook status

Southwest Calgary residents fighting a drug treatment clinic's move to their neighbourhood say they're not impressed with an online message their alderman posted, joking about methadone.

Ald. Brian Pincott's status, posted on Friday on his Facebook page, read: "Brian Pincott thinks we might need methadone to get over the ring road!"

Pincott's Ward 11 includes Braeside, where methadone clinic Second Chance Recovery moved after being forced out of a northeast location. Meanwhile, the province and city are also stalled on building the controversial southwest leg of a ring road, which has dragged on for years.

"I felt that he was really mocking the situation that we're trying really hard, as residents, to fight against," said Braeside resident Jill Hefferton. "And knowing that he's putting it together with another critical issue that's been discussed … the ring road, I think it's really quite inappropriate."

Pincott told CBC News on Tuesday that he thought his page was accessible only to his friends, and didn't realize it could be seen any public user.

"It was a comment for my friends who certainly, as I say, understand the context. But again, I gotta say, this does highlight the need for real information about the methadone clinic and that's what tonight is about," said Pincott, who hosted a town hall about the clinic on Tuesday night.

Clinic's move prompts legal wrangling

The clinic moved to 11438 Braeside Dr. S.W., despite word the landlord may no longer want to honour a lease after opposition from the local community.

Bill Leslie, who runs the private clinic, said methadone has been proven effective in treating opiate addiction. ((CBC))

"Until we're told anything different, no, we carry on. I mean we have patients to see this week and we will be doing it," said Bill Leslie, who runs the private clinic.

The tenant on the lease is Medicentres, a company that runs primary health-care clinics in Alberta. They are subleasing their space to the methadone clinic. On Monday, a judge ordered the landlord to give the tenants access to the building.

"That is being handled by our lawyers and Medicentre," said Leslie.

Proponents and opponents of the clinic were meeting at Braeside's community centre on Tuesday night with Pincott.

One neighbourhood resident, who wouldn't give her name because she said her home was recently robbed, said she is concerned the clinic will further jeopardize the safety of her family and the property values in her community.

"No, I do not want addicts anywhere near my children," she said. "I'm really disappointed that as a community we were not informed. We had no choice."

Leslie said the methadone clinic tends to draw drug dealers initially, but when his staff works with police, the problem has gone away very quickly.

"I'm a member of the community. I have children. I'm a grandfather and we have never had an incident of public safety," he said.

'It saved my life'

People opposed to the clinic don't understand how the program works, said Leslie, who argues methadone is a proven tool that is effective in treating opiate addicts. About 500 people from all walks of life — who are mostly addicted to prescription drugs — use the clinic, he said.

Terry Racette, a recovering morphine addict who has been using methadone for about four years, said he can't believe neighbours are afraid of people like him.

"It saved my life really, to tell you the truth," he said. "And now I got a clean life. I got a home, I got my kids back with me and I'm doing really good."

This is the second move for the private clinic.

Second Chance Recovery was located downtown for six years, but its lease was not renewed, so it relocated to a light industrial park on 41st Avenue N.E. in late 2008. But the Highland Park Community Association pointed out the area isn't zoned for a medical clinic, resulting in the city sending two letters to Second Chance ordering it to move out.

Calgary's only other methadone treatment centre is run by the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission, and there's a three-month waiting list.