Suffolk: Call made by charity chief executive for addicts to be treated locally

Chip Somers is pictured at Focus 12's The Annexe in Bury.
EADT 18.8.12

Chip Somers is pictured at Focus 12's The Annexe in Bury. EADT 18.8.12

A CHARITY chief executive has called on the organisation that works with drug and alcohol addicts in Suffolk to send more people for rehab within the county.

Chip Somers, of Focus12 drug and alcohol rehabilitation charity in Bury St Edmunds, said the county’s Suffolk Drug and Alcohol Action Team (DAAT) should refer more people for residential treatment at centres such as his rather than sending addicts to those outside Suffolk.

He also believes addicts “are not being encouraged” to come off methadone, but to stay on it as it is cheaper than funding someone to come off drugs completely.

But Simon Aalders, co-ordinator of DAAT, which is a Suffolk County Council service, said rehab centres were a “national market” and clients chose where they wanted to go.

He said they did not resist people going to rehab because of cost, adding their budget was sufficient to cope with the number of people coming through.

Mr Somers said within the county there had always been “tendencies to ethnically cleanse Suffolk of its addicts and suggest they go out of county and remain out of county” - but Mr Aalders said this was “nonsense”.

Mr Somers said: “Historically, they have always sent people outside the area on the principle people should be away from their triggers. That’s a spurious argument because people can buy drugs from wherever they like.”

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He added the difference in price in sending someone to Focus where they could maintain links with their families and local community was minimal. But he did not believe clients had a choice as to where they went for rehab.

“I would be asking why they [DAAT] are not utilising an excellent local service?” he said.

Mr Aalders said DAAT did refer clients to Focus12, which is independent.

“We don’t say everyone has got to go to this organisation or that organisation. It’s a national market and it’s a free market.

Clients choose.”

He said it was about “meeting the individual needs of that person” and as far as ethnically cleansing drug users or alcohol users from the county that was “utter nonsense”.

“That’s wholly inaccurate. What we do - and Chip should know this - we try and make sure the person and their recovery and their plan fits them.”

He said they wanted to make sure getting off drugs was always an option for the addict.

He added: “What makes most sense to me is someone recovers in the community where they are going to live. If they can re-establish networks, contact with their family, that works better for them, but there will be people who just cannot do that.”

He said DAAT places about 80 to 85 people a year in rehab, but the service probably gets 120 or 140 applications. It would probably cost in the region of £8,000 to put someone through rehab compared to about £2,000 to £2,500 for a treatment package in the community, such as methadone, he said.

Mr Somers said he is also concerned fewer and fewer people will be sent for rehab when funding changes come in on March 31.

Focus12 lost £40,000 last year.

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