Residents' methadone concerns unwarranted, says pharmacist

West End store will comply with 'good neighbour' rules

A West End resident is concerned a smallscale pharmacy proposed for 909 Denman St. will become a methadone dispensary.

But the new owner says methadone will be his lowest priority.

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Resident Georgette Jones said her suspicions were aroused when she and other residents near the property received a letter from the city detailing the proposal from Your Pharmacy Store owner Mathew Chong. The letter was missing a page.

"That's the page that outlines the part about the pharmacist working with the [Vancouver Police Department] to develop a strategy to handle drug dealing," said Jones. "I didn't get page two but another resident requested a copy and she said, 'Did you see this?'"

Jones is concerned few of her neighbours know the details of the proposal due to the missing page. She noted the city refused to resend the notice in full.

The proposal includes a copy of the city's Good Neighbour Conditions, a location and operation guideline that must be followed by any owner of a small-scale pharmacy in Vancouver. The property is zoned C-5, which allows for a pharmacy, but is also "conditional" and must be approved by the city's director of planning.

In this case the Good Neighbour Conditions read in part, "YPS Your Pharmacy Store Inc. and the owner shall implement procedures at the facility to address any nuisance issues arising as the result of the operation of the facility, including loitering outside, line-ups, litter, and the congregation of people." The conditions also mention hazardous waste and visible drug dealing and a warning the owner or operator must agree not to offer incentives to new clients.

Chong believes the missing page combined with the wording of the conditions spooked some residents. Chong, who's worked as a pharmacist at a major drug store in the West End for 10 years, says his business will not be a methadone clinic.

"Methadone is not a good thing to have," said Chong. "But if I have a regular patient who needs it for their health, I'll get it for them. I am a health care provider."

Chong has a long history in the West End and said he is looking forward to offering services he couldn't provide working in a corporate setting, such as home visits to shut-ins. He said many of the customers he's served over the years have HIV and AIDS and other chronic diseases, which makes it difficult for them to get out. Chong said he also has an interest in diabetes education, as well as providing travel disease prevention and treatment. Chong was director of the Coast Plaza Marketing Board for 10 years and has participated in four international marathons, including in Hawaii and Ireland, to raise money for medical research. Chong noted the pharmacy will be designed as an anchor for the dental offices approved for the building.

"If someone needs methadone, I'll get it for them. They're human too and need health care. But it's my lowest priority," said Chong.

City of Vancouver media spokesperson Barb Floden confirmed anyone applying to open a pharmacy in the city must agree to comply with the Good Neighbour Conditions. Floden added the date for written comments has been extended to Aug 19. The submitted plans may be viewed at the project coordinator's office on the third floor of city hall.

sthomas@vancourier.com

Twitter: @sthomas10

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