FORMER users of the Community Alcohol and Drugs Support Service (CADSS) have reacted with dismay and disbelief that the much-valued and much-used service has been closed down with the loss of five jobs.
They say that hundreds of lives have been saved during its 25-year long existence providing those struggling with alcohol and illegal drugs misuse with a safe place to turn to for help.
Last week, the independent organisation shocked the community when announcing that it was to close the Commercial Street-based service at very short notice.
The news comes at a time when, according to the Shetland Alcohol and Drugs Partnership, there has been “an increase in activity in Shetland recently with regard to the availability of illegal substances.”
NHS Shetland has now moved to reassure users that a good quality service will remain available.
Health and social care director Simon Bokor-Ingram said that, whilst there was less money available overall, the health board was still spending in excess of £700,000 on drug and alcohol services in 2016/17.
CADSS had been struggling during the last 12 months after some of its functions were taken over by the newly formed NHS-based substance misuse recovery service (SMRS).
When CADSS was offered a significantly reduced budget of £65,000 to run the needle exchange programme, offer open access drop-in sessions and carry out an education programme for young people, the board decided it could no longer cope.
The organisation decided to wind up the company with the loss of five jobs.
The drug workers are not being taken on by NHS Shetland – as TUPE employee regulations were not applicable ion this case, according to Bokor Ingram.
There are, meanwhile, some serious concerns that an NHS-based service will not be able to provide the same level of service that CADSS did.
Former user Trevor Tulloch said the new set-up and the way it came about gave little confidence for the future.
Having struggled with alcohol addiction for many years, the 35-year-old is now an award-winning apprentice bricklayer, has a three-year-old son and lives in a stable relationship.
He said he would not have been able to turn around his life without the help of CADSS.
“I cannot see the NHS being able offering the same level of compassion and care as the people at CADSS,” he said. “They were passionate about it, and the only thing they wanted to do was help people.
“You cannot fight a war on drugs and offer no help to people to get off the drugs.
“You need something to help people sort their lives out. And now that CADSS is closed this is a very worrying situation as there is nowhere for them to go now.
“I was able to turn my life around with the help I received from them. And I am just one of them. Without CADSS I would be either in prison or dead. Over the years they have save hundreds of lives in Shetland.”
A second former user, who did not wish to be named, said she had benefited greatly from CADSS’ help when she was a teenager.
“The CADSS service was so special to me because it got me through a time in my life where I thought nobody cared, not even the doctors at the health centre,” she said.
“The waiting list for help with mental health and addiction just isn’t good enough. People need to be able to access instant services like CADSS and I feel the NHS is already stretched quite thinly.
“I really hope they put some funding into something similar as it’s a much needed service on an island that has limited places to turn to for support.”
Bokor-Ingram said NHS drug workers were seeing clients at the Lerwick health centre and at some of the rural health centres. They were also doing some home visits.
“The service that is available is that people can contact the substance misuse recovery service, and they are seeing individuals really quickly,” he said.
“My primary concern is for the clients to make sure they have access to a service that delivers what they need.
“I am confident that we have a good service offering in place, and we will be picking up some of the CADSS element within that service.”
Needle exchange was already available from places other than CADSS, including pharmacies, Bokor-Ingram said.
An arrangement whereby the Salvation Army offers its building at Lerwick’s North Road for a weekly “open access drop-in session” has now been put in place, with the first meeting held there on Monday afternoon.
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