A deal is in the works for Clinic 554 to be purchased and turned into an apartment building for people recovering from drug addiction.
Dr. Sara Davidson, the director of River Stone Recover Centre in Fredericton, said the transaction is still in progress, but her plan is to purchase the building at 554 Brunswick St. and renovate it into a four-storey apartment building containing 16 to 24 units.
Davidson opened River Stone Recovery Centre in 2020, to offer treatment for people suffering from addiction to stimulants and opiates. It was one of five centres across Canada to receive Health Canada funding to pilot a treatment method that involves prescribing injected medical-grade opiates for those who don't respond to oral treatment.
She said the centre has seen success so far, with patients responding well to treatment.
However, housing remains a barrier to some successfully following through with treatment, Davidson said, and the hope is the apartments will offer a safe and secure environment to help those in recovery.
"I think anybody will be able to set their life goals and meet them once they have somewhere they can live," she said.
"It's impossible to imagine anything really changing or not getting worse if people aren't aren't housed.
"Housing alone is a medicine and then it helps provide that stability."
Aside from apartment units, she said the plan also involves creating a training and entrepreneurship hub on the ground floor to give residents and others in the community the help to re-engage with society.
Davidson said it's difficult to say when the deal will be finalized, but said the hope is to have it done and construction commencing by next spring.
She said she's hoping to tap funding from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and to have the apartments subsidized through the Department of Social Development.
She said wanted to share information about the plan publicly sooner than later to clear up rumours in the community that the intention was to open a safe injection site.
Those rumours have been coupled with concerns from residents about the site's proximity to George Street Middle School, she said.
"I recognize that people get frightened when they think of other people that have substance use disorders but a lot of that is based on just, unfortunately, on, on fear rather than necessarily on who the actual individual people are," she said.
A history as medical services clinic
For decades, the Brunswick Street building has been used for medical services, including abortions, which were provided there for a while by the Dr. Henry Morgentaler clinic.
The clinic was forced to close in 2014 because the province wouldn't fund the procedures.
Dr. Adrian Edgar took over in 2015 and rebranded it Clinic 554, with a focus on abortions and transgender health care. In 2019 announced he put the clinic up for sale for the same reason, a lack of funding from the province.
CBC News asked Edgar for an interview about what the pending sale of Clinic 554 means for the clinic and the services it offers.
Edgar replied in an email that it would be "premature" for him to predict how it will impact abortion and sexual health-care access at this point.
"If the sale goes through, I'll be thrilled to know another family physician has taken up the torch and will continue to use the space to take care of vulnerable [New Brunswickers]," he said.
"There's a tremendous health impact when a person is stigmatized for their most difficult circumstances, and it is a core tenet of family practice to treat everyone with compassion by meeting them where they're at.
"I've tried to do that every day, and I know Dr. Davidson will, too."