THE chairperson of a Southside drug treatment clinic believes that a HSE decision to curtail a methadone service for recovering addicts could put them at risk of relapsing.
The HSE recently informed management at the Rialto Methadone Clinic, at the St Andrew's Community Centre in Dublin 8, that it intends to close the early morning service at the clinic.
The early opening hours from 7-9am at the drug treatment centre has traditionally facilitated the rehabilitation of addicts who wanted to re-enter the workforce and education.
The HSE decision means the clinic will be now only open during working hours.
Chairperson of the Rialto Community Drug Team, Dr Aileen O'Gorman, who is also a member of the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) said the closure of the early morning service could have significantly detrimental effects on recovering drug addicts.
Responding to a to a written parliamentary question from Dublin South Central TD Aengus O'Snodaigh (SF), the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Roisin Shortall, confirmed that the clinic would now open at 9am.
The Minister added that while the clinic will open its doors later, it will have an extra hour for clients which “will enable the service to cater for more clients”.
The HSE has also defended its decision saying that recovering addicts who have stabilised enough to be in a position to work or study would receive treatment from their community GP.
“It is the position of the addiction service that where people have gained such a degree of stability to be in a position to engage in full-time work or education, it is entirely appropriate that they would receive their treatment from community GPs,” a spokesperson said.
“The approach of clients receiving methadone from a local GP instead of at the drug treatment clinic will assist them in normalising their lifestyles and move away from the drug subculture.”
The HSE added that the extra opening hour at the treatment centre would mean that the service would have the capacity to cater for 13 additional patients.
However, Dr O'Gorman said 17 of the group of 26 patients who currently attend the early morning clinic would not be able to visit the centre during the hours of 9am-12pm because of “work, education and training commitments”.
In addition, she said 24 of the 26 patients had stated their strong preference to continue attending the clinic. She stated that the treatment centre offered a holistic service for recovering addicts that involved counselling and other supports.
She added that as far as she was aware there was no capacity among local GPs to take on the recovering addicts as patients.
“All of the clients who were asked, with the exception of two, wanted to continue going to the clinic because of the support they received,” Dr O’Gorman said.
“I think it is crucial that they continue with the service. The service users were really taken aback by this because the HSE are suggesting that they move to GPs.
“But if they do that they can only go into a GP and get their prescription and get their dose in the pharmacy. In this clinic there are structured supports in place and the progress of the clients is monitored.
“They have gone back into rehabilitation, they are doing well, but they do need support.”