New policy worry for Northlands

Northlands, Derry's Addiction Treatment Centre, has claimed a proposed new policy which will stop people making self referrals for treatment for addiction, could result in empty beds in its centre.

Friday, 27th May 2016, 9:44 am
Updated Friday, 27th May 2016, 11:48 am

Tommy Canning, Head of Treatment at Northlands, said there was increasing concern about a new commissioning framework for the treatment of alcohol and drug addiction

being rolled out by the Public Health Agency and Health & Social Care Board, insisting that all referrals to Northlands residential programmes must come through statutory services.

“The largest bulk of our referrals are self referred people,” said Mr. Canning, “or families, or ex-residents directing people towards Northlands. If that resource is cut off, then the possibility exists of us having reduced numbers in treatment.

“As it stands, if a family member requires residential treatment, you could phone and make an appointment. However, the changes that are going to be implemented mean that if someone makes contact we would have to tell them to go through the Community Addiction team.

“It takes time to see a doctor initially, its takes a period of time to get an appointment with the addiction team and time to do an assessment.

“That process can be much shorter if someone refers to Northlands. With addiction there is sometimes a small window of opportunity when someone is motivated to change their drinking or whatever their addiction is. Time is of the essence when someone is asking for help.”

To highlight the nature of the proposed changes and the threat they pose , Northlands has called a public meeting next Thursday, June 2nd at 7.30 p.m in the Alexander Suite, City Hotel, Derry.

In a statement to the ‘Journal’ staff from the centre said: “Northlands at present provides eight residential beds. But it should be noted that a very small percentage of these beds are currently filled as a result of referrals from statutory services.

“Instead they are being filled as a result of self- referrals; referrals from family and friends, from GPs and from other voluntary and statutory sector services / organisations.

“If the proposed changes in policy were to be implemented, Northlands would witness an almost instantaneous emptying of its beds and individuals and their families would lose the right to choose.

“The rigid application of these changes will lead to grassroots, community-based organisations like Northlands being ultimately subsumed into a statutory addictions service which not only stands at a distance from communities but is also caught up in the wider statutory issue of long waiting lists making it increasingly difficult for people to have the freedom of choice to access services they need.

“Northlands believes that the right of people to be able to access the kind of help they need should be strongly defended.”

Head of treatment TommyCanning said that as Northlands was founded as part of a “community based response to addiction”, it is only right to let people know what is coming down the road.

He asked people to come along on Thursday night, especially anyone with an interest or concern in addiction, people who work in addiction or anyone who may have had an experience of Northlands.

“We have a reputation for treating a person in a particular way,” he said. “That’s what draws people to Northlands. People who have been through it tell us that they felt safe here.

“It’s the accessibility of the place. Often when you ring here you can get an appointment quickly. If there’s a waiting list we try and get people a cancellation, or if people are desperate we try and squeeze them in.”

Northlands has been in the community in Derry for the past 40 years.

It offers both residential rehabilitation treatment and nonresidential counselling for people with addiction.