Mayor wants drug clinic moved from CBD
IPSWICH Mayor Teresa Harding wants a drug clinic which treats heroin addicts and has been set up in the CBD for more than a decade moved on as the huge redevelopment of the city centre nears completion.
But the owner of the Ipswich Dosing Centre said his clinic is helping to prevent crime and clients would simply be treated at nearby pharmacies in the heart of the city if he was to close.
Pharmacist John Ward needed state government approval to set up the methadone clinic on Brisbane St and it is open 12.30pm to 3.30pm Monday to Friday.
The prescription medication is used as a replacement for heroin and other opioids.
Ipswich MP Jennifer Howard said the clinic “has been the subject of concern for some locals” and she had raised these concerns with Health Minister Yvette D’Ath but would not say whether she believed it should stay or go.
For Cr Harding, the answer is clear.
“We don’t want it there,” she said.
“We want it moved.
“More and more people are coming to the CBD and clients deserve privacy.
“They’re near a really busy coffee place.
“We want the CBD to be as inviting to families as possible.”
Cr Harding said with West Moreton Health progressing with plans to overhaul the city’s health infrastructure, which includes the $20.65 million purchase of council buildings, it should be a “natural progression” that the methadone clinic is moved.
“The CBD is changing,” she said.
“It works out well for the clients as well as the community.
“It would be good if the government listens to the community.
“It’s the ideal opportunity to move it. It is a private clinic however, so to move it means we’d probably have to buy it out.”
Mr Ward said his busiest day would be Friday, when about 25 clients come in.
The pharmacist said his clients were not causing trouble and if he were to shut down, it was likely 90 per cent of them would just go to other nearby businesses.
Mr Ward has about 60 clients in Ipswich.
He said three pharmacies in the CBD already provide the doses under the Queensland Opioid Treatment Program.
“If we stopped a few would be going back on the streets because they couldn’t be dosed at a regular pharmacy,” he said.
“We don’t cause any problems. People come out of Woolies and Coles and start arguing and fighting each other. Coles and Woolworths are not to blame.
“If I even have two people hanging around or raising their voices I go out and tell them it’s not allowed and don’t do it.
“I’ve been doing this for about 30 years and 11 of those in Ipswich.
“I’ve cancelled one person who broke the rules twice.
“Very few people know we exist.”
Mr Ward, who owns another methadone clinic in Fortitude Valley, said the average heroin habit costs about $1500 a week.
“They can’t work and have to find ways of raising that sort of money,” he said.
“One client told me (their habit was) $3500 a week. Look at this as crime prevention.
“People have a completely wrong notion of the people that come to us.
“When you take a dose of methadone you don’t get bombed out. You don’t have to go robbing banks because the price is $5 a day.
“They come in, we dose them, they go away. It takes less than a minute to give them a dose.
“Our clientele is something like a quarter of the entire clientele that goes to the Ipswich (Alcohol and Other Drugs Service) clinic in the health building in Bell Street.
“They give away needles. Downstairs is a methadone clinic that prescribes methadone.
“I don’t see it that we are the problem. Really we have very little to do with any of this.”
Mr Ward said he wasn’t sure where he should be moving his Ipswich clinic.
“If you go out into the suburbs people living nearby would certainly have an objection to it,” he said.
“We have to be close to transport and away from houses.
“When I moved into that dispensary, there were at least seven empty shops within a stone’s throw.
“I bought the shop. There’s still empty shops all over the place.”
Ms Howard said in a statement she had recently raised residents’ concerns with the state government.
She did not say whether she supported the clinic moving from the CBD.
“The advice I’ve been given is that the clinic is a dosing centre meaning that it operates in the same way as any community pharmacy that’s been approved to dispense methadone in Queensland,” she said.
“I’m further advised that the clinic can only dispense methadone to individuals who have a prescription through their GPs and who are receiving treatment under the Queensland Opioid Treatment Program.
“Opioid use is steadily on the rise, and almost anyone is at risk of stumbling into an opioid addiction.
“So having access to treatment and rehabilitation is extremely important.
The state government announced during last year’s election campaign it would spend $24.5 million for an Alcohol and Other Drug Withdrawal Management and Rehabilitation Service for Ipswich due to the demand for treatment services in the community.
“The facility will have 10 withdrawal management beds and 35 residential rehabilitation beds,” Ms Howard said.
“There are many people in our community who need treatment for addiction disorders – or have loved ones suffering from addiction - but can’t afford the exorbitant fees of private rehabilitation facilities.
“So having this new AOD Withdrawal and Rehabilitation centre in Ipswich will mean more people in our community will be able to access affordable treatment locally.”
Read more stories by Lachlan McIvor here.