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Substance abuse film-maker calls for Derry detox centre despite new crisis intervention unit

BY DONNA DEENEY

Published 06/10/2015

Derry Detoxed: Teenage addicts use their hoods to disguise their identities during filming interviews
Derry Detoxed: Teenage addicts use their hoods to disguise their identities during filming interviews

The film-maker behind a harrowing documentary about substance abuse in Londonderry has called for a major effort to secure a detox centre to deal with the city’s growing addiction problem.

Gavin Patton, a recovering alcoholic and producer of Derry Detoxed, said a proposed crisis intervention centre was not the answer for people who needed medical help 24 hours a day to get off heavy drink and drug use.

However, the uncle of a young addict who died before he could get help has welcomed the plans.

But Dermot Quigley said crisis intervention could have been available long before now, and should have been on the table after his nephew Andrew’s death.

Last week a task force set up to tackle Derry’s suicide rate agreed to adopt a crisis intervention model used in Belfast. The Nightingale Project run by the Forum for Action on Substance Abuse (FASA) was seen as the best way to help people contemplating suicide.

The group also agreed that plans by the Health and Social Care Board to extend its detox facility in Omagh to 24 hours should be tested.

But Mr Patton disagrees with this and said the argument for locating a detox centre in Derry was too strong for the facility to be anywhere else.

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He said: “A crisis intervention centre is all well and good for people who are not struggling with addiction, and it is needed.

“But unless it is able to give people medication to help them withdraw from either alcohol as it was in my case or other drugs then it won’t solve the need for a detox centre.

“When I was in the middle of my addiction there was a 24 hour GP facility at Great James Street but that closed and I remember so many nights walking the four miles to Altnagelvin Hospital for help.

“I walked over the Foyle Bridge and at times stood and wondered about jumping off but that was in 2008 and I have been sober pretty much since then.

“I was lucky but making the documentary and talking to other people who have struggled and are still struggling, I have been shocked at the amount of drugs, the ease that you can get them. For example, there are mobile shops in Derry which are selling morphine-based patches and tablets.”

The Derry Detoxed documentary film will be shown as part of a public forum taking place on Thursday in the Function Room of Derry City Sports & Social Club, 19 Crawford Square, to galvanise the campaign for a detox centre.

Speakers include Derry GP, Dr Anne McCloskey, Stephen McLaughlin from White Oaks Rehabilitation Centre in Muff as well as Mr Patton.

One of the founder members of the campaign to bring a detox centre to Derry is Dermot Quigley, the uncle of Andrew who died by suicide before he was able to get help with his addiction.

Mr Quigley told the North West Telegraph that he was pleased that something was now being done, but said his call a year ago for the Nightingale Project to come to Derry should have been acted on then. He said: “I’m very happy to learn that the suicide task force set up after my nephew Andrew’s death has agreed to provide a crisis service for Derry.

“The Nightingale Project run by FASA is a excellent model one which I had called for well over a year ago.

“Why wasn’t I listened to then?

“This is people’s lives we’re talking about.

“Someone could have been saved if this service had have been there already.

“I’m glad the pressure from our campaign is starting to pay off, hopefully a detox facility will be the precursor from the crisis centre, both of which are badly needed as Omagh is the closest detox centre to Derry.”

If you have been affected by any issues raised in this story contact the Samaritans in Derry on 028 7126 5511 or LifeLine on 0808 808 8000

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