News ID: 232921
Published: 1141 GMT October 17, 2018

Rehab centers shutting doors ‘A tragedy for addicts’

Rehab centers shutting doors ‘A tragedy for addicts’
Martin Hopkins at Chandos House during a group therapy session.

Martin Hopkins was sitting peacefully in the pretty, sun-dappled courtyard garden of Bristol’s Chandos House addiction treatment center.

He’s come a long way in six months, according to  

“I was on the streets in Plymouth. I was using heroin, crack, spice. I was trying to kill myself,” he said.

The 41-year-old admitted he was a one-man crime wave.

“I was shoplifting. I was stealing off my family. I did whatever I could to get the £100 I needed every day. I did not care about anyone,” he said.

Since coming to the all-male center, he has found the time and space to face up to both the pain he has caused and the pain that drove him to addiction.

“The way I was brought up as kid, there was a lot of violence. I was beaten to the point that my ribs were broken. I had scars everywhere,” he said.

“I started using at 11 — I was medicating because I couldn’t deal with being at home.”

Now he’s clean, Hopkins is keen to meet his children and contribute to society.

“I’ve got two kids I’ve never seen and hopefully one day I can be a dad to them,” he said.

“I’d like to do a bit of voluntary work — give something back to the community because I’ve taken so much.”

But he is one of the lucky ones. From next month, the residential care that has helped Hopkins begin to turn his life around will no longer be available in Bristol. Falling referrals mean Chandos House, the last remaining rehab center in the city, will have to close.

Chandos’s head of treatment, James Dickinson is broken-hearted that his center, which has helped between 40 and 50 men a year for 35 years, will close on November 8.

“Think about the ripple effect on families and the community. You could pack Wembley stadium with all the people Chandos House has helped directly and indirectly over the years,” he said.

From next month men in need of residential treatment will be sent to 17 centers outside the city — although referrals are dropping as the council’s rehab budget has more than halved. Women are already being sent to sites in towns like Weston-super-Mare and Stroud as there is no residential provision for female addicts in Bristol.

The center’s biggest funder, Bristol city council, spent £140,802 on referrals to Chandos House in 2015-16. Now the funding is nearly £100,000 less, at £38,111 in 2017-18.

Whereas the council would typically pay for around six people to be treated at the Chandos, now it is only funding one. And overall, Bristol has slashed rehab spending in the city, with funding falling from £909,833 in 2015-16 to £427,000 in 2017-18.

Bristol is not the only city where residential centers are struggling. The Recovery Group UK, which represents rehab organizations, says 14 centers have closed and 15 have been forced to cut beds or sell assets since 2016. The group’s chair, Noreen Oliver, who also sits on the board of Iain Duncan Smith’s Center for Social Justice, blames the government because it has reduced public health funding by 14 percent since 2015.

“I have never known it as bad as it is now. Rehabs are closing left, right and center or going to the private market,” she said.

“Local authorities are not going to be funding rehab because the government has cut their money drastically.”

Last year, the UK’s government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs warned that local cuts were in danger of dismantling a treatment system that has brought huge improvement to the lives of people with drug and alcohol problems.

The report stated: “The ACMD is concerned that a system that has been seen nationally and internationally as highly successful is at risk of being undermined.”

Dickinson, whose mother founded Chandos 35 years ago in their family home, said it is the worst time to be cutting rehab. Bristol has the highest rate of opiate and crack users of any regional city and the largest proportion of hard-to-treat users with complex problems, according to Home Office statistics.

Drug misuse deaths have risen by more than a quarter in Bristol — from 68 in 2012 to 86 in 2017. Nationally, deaths are also at record levels, with fatalities due to drug misuse in England and Wales rising from 1,636 in 2012 to 2,503 in 2017.

“Drug-related deaths are at their highest ever. But there is a rationing of support all over the country. Probation, hospitals, GPs, mental health services, street drug services and residential services are all feeling the pinch,” he said.

A Consultant psychiatrist, Jan Melichar, who used to be the NHS medical lead for substance issue in Bristol, said the closure of this last center is a disaster for the city, which has lost nine other residential facilities since 2010.

“The question is what will happen to these people and the answer is prisons for misuse, hospitals for overdoses, back to stealing and dealing, causing more mayhem to police and society.”

Melichar, who sits on the Royal College of Psychiatry addiction faculty national executive and provides informal medical advice to Chandos House, said the cuts are self-defeating.

“Councils won’t refer to residential [treatment] because it costs more money, so they ignore the people with the worst problems. Those people drop out of treatment and end up in prison where we spend £50,000 a year on them — a brilliant piece of false economy,” he said.

Asher Craig, Bristol’s cabinet member for communities and equalities, said government cuts have hit the city’s substance misuse budget but insists Bristol residents can still be treated outside the city.

“Chandos House is one of our approved providers and receives funding depending on demand for places, rather than by a fixed amount each year. We have not taken a decision to reduce the funding this provider receives and while the closure of Chandos House would be a shame for the city, this type of support is still available for Bristol residents,” she said.

The Department of Health and Social Care said it is giving local authorities £16 billion over the current spending period to provide public health services, including drug support and treatment.

Back at Chandos House, a resident, Chris Howell, said his out-of-control alcohol and drug use pushed him to such dark places that he made multiple suicide attempts.

“If I had carried on, I might have tried to kill myself again, I might have ended up on the streets, whatever life I might have it would have been a horribly sad existence,” he said.

He has been in treatment for four months and said the center has given him a chance to get to the bottom of his problems but its closure is a tragedy for other addicts in the city.

“This is Bristol’s last rehab. A safety net is being taken away.”



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