B.C. responds to lawsuit over fees to welfare recipients for methadone treatment

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VANCOUVER — The British Columbia government says it has done nothing wrong by redirecting money from the income-assistance cheques of recovering heroin addicts to pay private methadone-dispensing clinics for treatment.

In documents filed in B.C. Supreme Court last month, the provincial government says private clinics can charge extra for counselling services not provided by a doctor, and that such fees can be paid for out of a beneficiary’s monthly income or disability allowance.

Laura Shaver is in the methadone maintenance program and sued the province in November 2015 in what could become a class-action lawsuit.

Shaver’s notice of claim says she was forced to sign a government-drafted agreement at Yale Medical Centre in downtown Vancouver because she need treatment for a heroin addiction and there was no room at a public facility.

The fee agreement is $60, which is reduced by about $42 through a government-provided supplement, leaving the remaining $18 to be drawn from her monthly support allowance.

The government’s response to civil claim says it did not force Shaver to attend the private clinic, which the province says operates separately from government.

The Canadian Press