SDLP Foyle MLA Pat Ramsey has expressed his shock about plans to reconfigure detox services for drug and alcohol misuse, which could mean users from Derry would have to travel to Antrim to get specialist treatment.
The changes could come in as a result of a consultation by the Health Board on the future of detox and rehabilitation services which closed last week.
Mr Ramsey said: “The recommendations from the Board amounted to a total reconfiguration of services throughout the region. We currently have 42 beds for these services across four health trusts.
“It was proposed that specialist beds be reduced to 24 and that the independent sector, such as Northlands in Derry, would take on the rehabilitation role and that the Health Service would concentrate on detoxification and stabilisation.
“The consultation document admits that there is no specialist provision in the Western Trust or Belfast area, yet bizarrely in seeking to reconfigure the services to give access to everyone in the region, it is proposed that those in need of specialist treatment in Derry would have to travel to Holywell Hospital, almost 55 miles from the city.
“I have made it clear in my submission that this is totally unacceptable, and that our city should have a dedicated facility in liaison with the new Grangewood Hospital at Gransha to form an all-round service for detox, stabilisation, and a preventative service to help address mental health issues.”
Mr Ramsey continued: “We have the opportunity to create a holistic service for rehab and detoxification in our city as a major population centre, and I am determined that the Board consider investing in our local services here, not centralising them and expecting my constituents to travel to Antrim for specialist treatment.
“Those seeking recovery and our young people, in particular need leadership on this issue and the confidence that services will be there for them if they ever need them.
“I have sought an urgent meeting with Minister Poots now that the consultation is complete and I will also be raising pathway criteria with him - it is clear speaking to many constituents that requirements for those seeking help to be ‘dry’ is causing great difficulties. We need to be widening accessibility to specialist services, not hindering it.”