Cautious welcome for Omagh detox unit

Maeve McLaughlin
Maeve McLaughlin

A new eight bed detox unit will be operational in Omagh from January next year.

The news of the opening was confirmed by the Western Trust (WHSCT) to Sinn Féin Foyle MLA and chair of the Assembly’s Health Committee Maeve McLaughlin.

Speaking to the ‘Journal’ she said, “I am pleased to have received confirmation from the Western Trust (WHSCT) that a Detox Unit will be operational in Omagh from January.

“It will be an eight bed in patient unit that will be operational 24/7 .This is good news for Western Trust and the North West region and is less than an hour’s journey from Derry,

“Whilst we welcome this news it is of paramount importance that we all continue the work around early intervention. I firmly believe as we move forward that we need a crisis intervention model in the city similar to Nightingale project in Belfast and we will take this forward through the NW Addiction Taskforce.

“Addiction issues cost the health service £250 million a year and we must be exploring new and innovative ways of tackling it.

“It’s very important we must not forget to mention the human cost to individuals, families, communities and society itself, she added”

Local GP Dr Anne McCloskey, who is running as an independent candidate in the forthcoming Stormont elections, has said that while the unit has to be welcomed, it also “falls short of what is needed.”

She continued, “I’m certainly not jumping for joy at the news; it falls short of what we need here.

“Derry is the fourth largest city in Ireland and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask for a detox unit locally.

“I’m not sure of the details and small print, but it would need to cover drug as well as alcohol addiction.

“It will also only work if there is good communication with the excellent support services that already exist in Derry.

“Detox programmes also only work with family involvement and that is less likely to happen if the unit is an hour away.”

Gavin Patton, who made the documentary ‘Derry Detoxed’, has also questioned the location of the unit.

Speaking yesterday he said, “It’s great for Omagh but what about Derry; to me the two are not connected. I cannot understand why they won’t open a unit in the city.

“Why not now? Will it take even more tragic deaths to make them see that a unit is needed in Derry?

“They are saying that the unit will be for people from Derry too but it’s an hour away. Will the users be transported there in an ambulance?

“If family members are expected to take the user there, what’s to say an alcohol seizure won’t happen and without adequate medical supervision, lead to a death.

“Of course I welcome any detox unit but we will continue to push for one based in Derry. It’s needed, now.”