Funding fears: ‘Northlands saved my life’

Emma King
Emma King

A former staff nurse from Limavady who stole drugs because she was addicted to codeine says money must be found to save an addiction treatment centre in Derry from closure.

Emma King’s plea follows a public meeting at which Northlands founder and director Denis Bradley warned the centre would close within a year if a £200,000 shortfall is not found.

“Northlands saved my life, and it has to stay. The Department of Health and the politicians need to listen to Northlands. Addication is a major problem,” said Emma.

The meeting was held to discuss concerns over the impact new proposals will have on the admittance policy.

Head of Treatment at Northlands, Tommy Canning, said plugging the £200,000 gap - funding he says the Health and Social care Board has taken away from Northlands - sorts out the problem in the short term.

“Denis Bradley warned Northlands will be closed in 12 months if that’s not addressed, and that’s fatal. It’s very serious for the people who need the service,” said Mr Canning, who explained Northlands is one of two commissioned treatment services in Northern Ireland; the other is located in Belfast.

“It is a crisis, there’s no getting away from that.”

Emma King says she is “alive today, clean and sober” because of Northlands.

“Northlands makes you see the truth in your addiction. It is intense, and it is hard, but it makes you see the truth,” said Emma.

“They break you down to build you back up, if that makes sense, and your counsellor is your counsellor for life. They are there for you 100 per cent.”

Emma, now 36, said her addiction stemmed from her mother’s death 10 years ago, which she says she never dealt with.

“I had a headache one day in work and I took a couple of codeine. and that’s how addiction found me,” she said.

“The codeine numbed everything - the anger I felt, the grief - and that’s how I ended up addicted to them.”

Emma said she only faced her addiction after the second time she was caught.

“I knew what I was doing but it didn’t stop me. That’s the power of addiction,” she said.

“Before Northlands I was so broken I didn’t care if I lived or died. I used to describe my addiction to what I imagine hell to be like. Northlands didn’t just help me, but it helped my family. There is nothing like it in the North West and I couldn’t imagine if it closed for the sake of £200,000.”

In the long term, Mr. Canning hopes there will be a meeting with the new Health Minister where there will be opportunities to review decisions made, and discussion around how those decisions have impacted people on the ground living with day to day addiction.

Mr. Canning said Northlands, which opened 40 years ago, provide addiction treatment to 600 people in a non-residential capacity, and 60 people in a residential capacity as well as family support places. He also said proposed policy changes will mean people will no longer be able to self-refer when seeking out the services the centre provides.

He said all referrals will have to come through statutory services, meaning that it could take a much longer period of time for someone to receive an assessment.