What I should have said at the Oscars

“And the Award for Rehab Chair of the Year goes to Bill Hughes of Mount Carmel”. 

At this year’s UKESAD addiction recovery Conference there were a number of awards given – the “DB Recovery+ McLean Deconstructing Stigma Awards”, called “the Oscars of the addiction treatment field”.   The venue was a glitzy, invitation-only dinner at the Tower Hotel, and the list of winners certainly justified that title, including as it did a member of the House of Lords, a US Professor, an eminent psychiatrist, and the government Recovery Champion.

I felt very honoured to be among such names and to receive my award as Mount Carmel’s Chair.  I thanked the organisers, Deirdre Boyd of DB Recovery and Jim Holsomback of the McLean Hospital, gave a short speech, mercifully short as one of my colleagues described it afterwards, and returned to my seat at the.  But I did think to myself, I’d really would have liked to have ten minutes or more to say all the things I wanted to say.  So here’s my chance to say them!

I would summarise by stressing three points:

• The small independent, affordable, not-for-profit residential rehabs that Mount Carmel represents are a vital component of the treatment options available
• They are under financial threat as never before, once gone are hard to replace, and are the last chance of recovery for many alcoholics and addicts
• In the absence of public money, more families are putting their own money forward to fund rehab for their addicted loved ones.

The longer version of this is as follows:

I don’t think it’s possible to pick out any one of the Mount Carmel management team:  to pick out one “winner” from our management team is to try to split the unsplittable.  Yes, I’ve been on or around the Management Committee since I “graduated” from Mount Carmel some 25 years ago, but the Chief Exec Ruth Allonby has been at Mount Carmel a year or two longer than me, and we work together, and our Board works hard too.  

It’s good to see a small rehab of our type recognised:  I see Mount Carmel as a good example of a small, independent, affordable, not-for-profit residential rehab, putting the clients first, and dedicated to their abstinent recovery.  There are many approaches to addiction treatment across the UK, but I am very pleased to be working in this particular sector.  There are quite a number of us, and I believe we do vital work very successfully.

We have never faced a greater threat than we face now:  the reduction in Local Authority funding caused by “austerity”, has already closed some 50 rehabs like ours in recent years, and will close down more.  There are also more empty beds in the remaining rehabs than there used to be.

We never been faced by a greater need for treatment than we face now:  addiction is a health issue and not a moral issue, yet treatment is now inaccessible to many who need it.   There is no question that practising alcoholics and addicts are causing huge problems, for themselves, for their families, and for the public purse, and will continued to do so without treatment.  As treatment gets harder to come by, these problems grow.

We need to be here when other interventions fail:  there are interventions that are less intense than ours that can be used to address alcoholism – drink diaries, controlled drinking, attendance at day centres.  Many of our clients have been through these, and they have not worked for them.  When all else has failed, the only option is intensive residential rehab.  After that there are no more answers.  We are the last hope for the helpless.

More people are funding their own treatment:  in the absence of public funding, more people are funding treatment themselves.  In some ways this is wrong, in that health issues, which addiction is, should be treated free of charge.  But that’s not how it is, and in reality some people can get treatment only if they fund it themselves.  However, the good news is that people often find treatment is more affordable than they feared, that they can find the funding, and we see this happening more and more.

Recovery is wonderful!  The final point that I would make is that recovery, solid, abstinent, progressive recovery, is wonderful.  It reaches every part of the recovering alcoholic’s life – family, friends, work and the rest.  We don’t just get better – we get better than better!