Ben Spurr on methadone and NIMBYism

A group of Parkdale residents is up in arms about a methadone clinic that will move onto their street today.

A group of Parkdale residents is up in arms about a methadone clinic that will move onto their street today (Thursday, June 30). A recent community meeting took only 15 minutes to dissolve into an emotional shouting match.

Addiction treatment centres have never been popular neighbours, but this is Parkdale. Nobody who’s lived here long is shocked by visible poverty or addiction, so why the backlash?

Concerned residents are adamant that this isn’t a case of “not in my backyard.” Aki Kyrou, who lives next door to the future site of Breakaway Addiction Services on Strickland, says his gripe is that the clinic has asked the province for $1.5 million, and he doesn’t think that much money could possibly be wisely spent on the small building. Others complain about the lack of clinic parking and the short notice given before Breakaway moves in.

But make no mistake – this is about NIMBY. It’s inconceivable that these residents would organize meetings about funding for a clinic on the other side of town or shout at each other over parking for a new dentist’s office.

The fight is particularly bitter because of the unique character of Strickland. Though surrounded by the seediness often associated with Parkdale, the street is a quiet, gentrified refuge. As one local puts it, “Strickland isn’t Parkdale.” Residents will tolerate addicts when they venture out into the ‘hood, but this clinic is just too close to home.

Breakaway’s Dennis Long says the clinic won’t be disruptive. “A significant majority of our clients are employed,” he says. “You wouldn’t be able to pick them out amongst the community. We have lawyers, limo drivers.”

During peak times the clinic will see only six or seven clients an hour. Most days it shuts by 4 pm.

Residents seem unaware of these facts, and that’s not their fault. Breakaway needs to communicate better.

And yet you can’t say you support rehab clinics and also say you don’t want one next door. To their credit, most at the meeting vowed to be good neighbours if they can’t stop it from opening. It would be in Breakaway’s best interest to return the favour.

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