There is little doubt of the need for drug and alcohol services throughout England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. However, need does not always translate into supply. Wherever you look in the UK, the availability of services for both youth and adults is a mixed bag. In some locations, available services abound. In others, community leaders and charitable organisations are struggling to help everyone in need.

Two cases perfectly illustrating the dichotomy come from County Tyrone in Northern Ireland and Cumbria in north-west England. While one is managing to expand current programmes, the other is looking at possible closure.

Omagh, County Tyrone

The Health and Social Care Board in County Tyrone has approved a plan to keep the drug and alcohol services in their area in full operation. What’s more, it even voted to expand the programme by way of a new 30-bed network consisting of three separate facilities. The decision was made after the board held a public consultation on the matter.

The board was originally considering a plan to reduce the number of available facilities from four to two. The consultations help them to understand that residential alcohol and drug treatment cannot afford to be reduced in the county. Rather, it needs to be expanded. By adding the additional 30 beds, the county will be providing access to services throughout the region. Officials say the new network will be accessible by those in need 24 hours a day, thanks to additional resources being made available to fund their operation.

Cumbria, North-West England

For the past 35 years, Cumbria Drug & Alcohol Services (CDAS) has been providing intervention, counselling and support services for youth between the ages of 11 and 16. The services have meant a lot in terms of teaching kids about the dangers of drink and drugs. Unfortunately, the programme is just about out of money and facing closure. If it comes to that, the charity will remain offering some of its other programmes, but its core drink and drug intervention programme will have to cease.

One of the mainstays of the programme is to go into schools and educate children about two things: their own drinking and drug use and that of their parents. It is a way to provide both interaction and support at the same time. Nevertheless, if funding is not restored in the near future, the programme may come to a close at the end of September (2014).

A charity spokesperson has indicated that the financial difficulties could not come at a worse time. CDAS is currently carrying out research that seems to suggest an increase in alcohol misuse is directly related to the sluggish economy. Ironically, that same sluggishness is partly responsible for the charity’s funding problems.

Doing Our Best

An honest examination of drug and alcohol services in Britain shows that charities like CDAS are doing the best they can with the resources they have. Many counties and local councils are also doing the best they can. Unfortunately, the growing tide of alcohol and drug misuse is moving too fast for service providers to keep up with. So where do we go from here?

As the experts work to figure it out, drug and alcohol emergency helplines are offering free counselling and referral services to all those in need. Private rehab clinics are working with those in trouble to help them overcome addiction. And of course, support groups and local charities are doing everything they can to provide support and treatment. The reality is that addiction is a constant battle we must never stop fighting.

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