A STRABANE man has called on the government to ease the restrictions currently being placed on addiction treatment centres in the North West.
Tommy Canning, head of the Northlands Centre in Derry, says the current restrictions are not helping when it comes to fighting addiction. Upon reopening in May 2020 after the first lockdown, waiting lists to access the services at Northlands were huge and have not gone down.
“At present we are operating at a 40 per-cent reduction in the amount of people to whom we can offer our services. If we were operating at normal capacity, we would have eight in-patient residential spaces but we can only use five of those spaces at present because of Covid -19 and up until recently we could only use four,” he said.
While the capacity in the centre has diminished, the numbers of people needing the treatment has not. To highlight the point, Tommy points to the fact that in 2018 the centre catered for a total of 64 people whereas only 29 people have been able to make use of the centre in 2021 so far.
Previously, Tommy has lamented the fact that the situation ‘has not improved’ when it comes to the amount of addiction treatment services available for people in the North West and says a new, bigger centre is sorely needed. Funding provisions for a new addiction centre in Derry were outlined in the New Decade, New Approach deal, which led to the restoration of devolution at Stormont in early 2020, but as yet the finding has not been received.
In addressing the issues surrounding the situation, Tommy acknowledges there are problems but feels that the centres should be allowed to operate in a more relaxed way to help those in need.
“I understand the difficulty we face because none of our staff live on-site so they are coming into the centre from outside. However, there could be some leniency and relaxation on things like social distancing or creating a bubble with people tested at regular intervals whilst they’re in treatment, which would go some way to alleviating the strain of not being able to provide for those in need.
“It’s not straightforward but if there were ways around this to allow us to provide residential treatment for eight people at a time again and allowed us to see more people face-to-face then we would welcome that.”