Recovering addicts have expressed their concerns after public funding to secure a place with Glasgow’s largest residential rehab centre was reduced.
Phoenix Futures, in Anniesland, lost the tender to provide long-term rehab beds to Glasgow’s health and social care partnership.
As of this week, the contract goes to other providers and the number of beds available will be cut from 52 to 14.
The move has raised fears fewer addicts living in the city will have access to the long-term treatment they need.
Recovering addict Gary Kelly said: “I know I would be dead if it wasn’t for this place as I couldn’t have fixed myself.”
The 46-year-old told STV News when he first walked through the doors of Phoenix Futures, he had no hope.
Five months on, he says he is grateful to have been given a second chance of life, a life free of drugs.
Mr Kelly had been holding down a job in construction while addicted to alcohol, prescription drugs and cocaine. He said his family struggled for months to access help while he reached crisis point.
He said: “My mental health was shot to pieces. My wife was phoning about constantly and looked online to try and get me placements and get me sectioned.
“I couldn’t see myself getting better and I couldn’t see a way out. My wife thought she was going to lose her husband.
“They were basically waiting for the chap at the door to say I was going to found dead. My relapses at the start were maybe once every six months. I was then turning up at hospital every three or four weeks.
“I thought everyone would be better off without me.”
Mr Kelly is now preparing to leave rehab in a few weeks. While others will go into the charity’s supported accommodation, he will get help to return home to his family.
He said: “I can now smile and look you in the eye when I’m talking to you. I used to walk about with my head down so that’s a good part of it.
“Just to get your family back and everyone to have peace of mind. I actually see a future now instead of thinking there wasn’t going to be one.”
Bruce Munro, of Glasgow, has had issues with drugs for almost two decades. At his rock bottom, he was homeless and sleeping rough in Glasgow city centre.
The 45-year-old said: ” When I came in to Phoenix Futures, my mental health was really bad.
“I have definitely come a long way because five months ago I was eight stone and taking food from bins and begging to fund a drug habit – I didn’t feel part of society.
“I have no family and I just really needed support. On the streets, I had none and I was desperate.
“I think my care manager saw some potential in me and that I was desperate and willing to come into treatment.”
Mr Munro has spent five months with the residential service and will move on to its supported accommodation. He is worried for others in the city who face limited access to similar long-term treatment.
He said: “To have only 14 beds for a city the size of Glasgow is disgraceful. I think this model works for me because it’s not just about putting down the drugs.
“You are getting therapy, bereavement and trauma counselling rather than just putting the drugs down because that’s the easy part.”
After sharing a similar experience, Joanne Hutton is now training to be an addiction worker.
The 37-year-old, from Dunfermline, began using drugs at the age of 21, taking speed and Valium before moving on to heroin.
Funding was also a massive barrier for Ms Hutton when trying to access treatment but she eventually secured a place by working for months with her key worker. She successfully completed a six month programme with Phoenix Futures when she was 34 years old.
Ms Hutton believes residential rehab can totally change lives if the person wants it enough. She said: “For me personally I needed to be taken out of the situation I was in.
“I needed to get out of my community to get clean. I spent six months with Phoenix Futures at their old centre.
“I haven’t used since. My mum and dad now have peace at night. I’m engaged and my daughter is happy. We have a nice home together.
“To be honest, I never thought I would go the rest of my life without using drugs but here I am three years later.”
The current centre, which opened a year ago, was a former nursing home. It aims to treat men and women from across Scotland and the north of England.
Stephen Kennedy, who has worked with the charity for 16 years, said: “It’s great to see people getting their lives back together from coming in here as a shell. They come in here with no smile, no hope. Phoenix and their peers give them hope. “
“Over the years since I’ve been working here, a lot of local authorities have been diverting their funding into community services.
“I’ve seen local authorities cut their funding, Aberdeen City, Dundee, Dumfries & Galloway and now Glasgow has done the same.
He added: “Residential rehab is definitely not for everyone but neither is opiate replacement therapy. Being on that for 15 or 20 years isn’t for everyone.
“What support do you need to come off opiate replacement therapy? What if you can’t do it in the community?
“Would it be an option to do a detox in a safe environment like Phoenix Futures?. They are now taking that option away for a lot of people in Glasgow.
“In my personal opinion, they need to look at this again and rethink this. Give people the choice to determine what is right for them – not just that’s the only choice you’ve got.
“That’s what they have done with this decision. “
Glasgow’s drug and alcohol partnership said there is a lack of demand for residential rehab places and claim only half of Phoenix Futures’ beds were occupied in the last year.
However, the charity denies this and said it still has a good relationship with other local authorities including Fife.
It will look at ways to subsidise beds and improve access for those from Glasgow who need to self fund. Another charity, the Mungo Foundation has closed its ten-bed unit in Govan after it also lost the contract.
A spokesperson for Glasgow’s Health & Social Care Partnership said: “We are modernising Glasgow’s drug and alcohol addiction services to provide treatments when and where service users need them most and to improve outcomes for individuals at different stages of their recovery.
“This includes offering more community based treatment. A more effective and shorter treatment programme will result in an increased number of residential recovery experiences being available.”
Under the new contract, 52 long-term residential rehab beds have been reduced to 14.
Rainbow House run by Crossreach will offer abstinence based treatment for up to 12 weeks at a time.
Turning Point Scotland will deliver a second service with 16 beds available to help stabilise an addiction for four to six weeks.
Concerns about the availability of residential rehab beds across Scotland are to be raised with the Drug deaths taskforce which has been set up to tackle the ongoing crisis.
Jardine Simpson from the Scottish Recovery Consortium said : “The scientific data tells us the longer the residential care period, the better the expected outcome for people. Drug deaths for last year were 1187.
“The expectation is next year that number will be far higher. Can we afford not to offer as many different options based on their therapeutic value rather than financial considerations? “
The Scottish Government said it is monitoring this situation closely. A spokesperson said: “We want to ensure everyone who requires drug rehabilitation treatment has access to it.
“We have committed a further £20m over the next two years to support local services and provide targeted support.
“It is for individual Alcohol and Drug Partnerships to provide services which meet the needs of their population.
“We expect to see the continued provision of a full range of treatment options available in every area, including long-term access to residential care.”