Friday, 6 April 2018

A Good News Story

Although this from Scotland's Herald on Sunday is a particularly good example of crass 'journalism' that simply regurgitates press releases - and then not very well - it is very much a good news story and long overdue:-  

First ever drug rehabilitation village opens its doors

Scotland’s first ever long-term “drug rehabilitation village” opens its doors today. The River Garden Auchincruive project, near Ayr, is a groundbreaking residential project to help those recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. Run by charity Independence from Drugs and Alcohol Scotland (IFDAS), the programme is inspired by a number of radical rehab programmes from around the world. It will initially provide accommodation, training and support for up to 40 former addicts who will live there for up to three years.

Director of Development at IFDAS, Mark Bitel said the three year programme was unlike any other type of service currently available in the UK. The 48-acre site acts as a residential training and social enterprise development where the community will grow food to supply an onsite shop and café, and run a bakery. The programme will be free while residents are volunteering - expected to be for an average 15-month period - but they will pay for their accommodation once they are employed by the centre.

Mr Bitel added: "We aim to demonstrate that there is a different approach with good outcomes for individuals who complete their programmes, their families, communities and, ultimately, the wider society."

Scotland currently has among the worst drug and alcohol problems in Europe, with 867 drug-related deaths reported in 2016 -- double the amount reported in 2015. The average rehab programme in Scotland lasts three months. Although 97 per cent of people leaving residential drug treatment programmes are clean, about 80 per cent have relapsed within a month.


Had the 'journalist' at the Herald bothered to dig a bit further, they would have discovered this:-  


River Garden will be a residential training and social enterprise development centre for people in the early stages of recovery from drug and/or alcohol addiction modelled on the three most successful and transformative self-help organisations for people in recovery across the globe: San Patrignano (Italy), Basta (Sweden) and Delancey Street (USA), which have been producing successful results helping people into long-term recovery, reintegrating into employment and mainstream society (70%-80%). Love and solidarity, boundaries, and training and employment for social enterprise activities We have been inspired by these successes to set up a recovery community in Scotland that supports people to live a drug and alcohol-free life. River Garden will be based on the same principles of abstinence, trust, firm boundaries, mutual support, social enterprise, respect for life, and responsibility. Participants will receive training and social support in a range of social enterprise activities to create a visitor destination using the existing refurbished gardens, and establishing a café, bakery, garden nursery, and fresh food for sale and processing, alongside other craft industries on site, and eventually expanding our business activities to the wider community.

Our extensive research has helped us to create a model that is culturally appropriate for the UK. Our aim is that River Garden will serve as a prototype which will be a transformational model for improved outcomes for people with drug and/or alcohol addictions. It is radical and different from any other type of service currently available to this group of people in the UK. We aim to demonstrate that there is a different approach with good outcomes for individuals who complete their programmes, their families, communities and ultimately the wider society. Initially, River Garden will support 30-40 individuals at any one time, but our strategic intention is to use the learning to replicate and set up other recovery communities in the UK to give people whose lives have been blighted with drug and alcohol addictions a real route out of their dependence and the opportunity to build a meaningful drug and alcohol-free life for themselves, with associated benefits to their families, communities and wider society.

Although abstinence is a requirement for entry, we will work with applicants and their treatment providers to begin the admissions process while they are reducing any substitute prescribing, so that there is a seamless transition from treatment to River Garden, minimising the chances of relapse between completion of treatment and becoming a volunteer trainee. For the past 2 years we have been in a process of learning about the admissions process by assisting people from Scotland in need of the type of support that IFDAS will offer to access the San Patrignano community in Italy. We have undertaken more than 20 assessments and to date have helped 3 people from Scotland (two male and one female) to gain places in San Patrignano and supported them to travel to Italy. This has been a useful learning process that has informed our own assessment methodology. This has included involving family members in the admissions process. We have secured planning permission for our centre and the purchase of the land will complete at the end of September 2017. We hope to begin preparation for our first 10 residents for admission in the Spring of 2018.

With an estimated 59,500 dependent drug users, Scotland has one of the worst drug problems anywhere in Europe. In total, 867 drug-related deaths were registered in Scotland in 2016. This was the largest number ever recorded, 23% more than in 2015, and double since 2005. Meanwhile liver disease now accounts for one in fifty of all Scottish deaths, and alcohol-related deaths in Scotland have increased by 100% since 1994 and are now officially the highest in Europe (1,265 alcohol-related deaths in 2016, up 10% on the previous year).


For those readers who've been around from the early days, they might recall we covered this topic here on Saturday, 7 May 2011:- 

Food for Thought

I don't normally do tv cookery programmes, but somehow found myself watching a new series called 'Two Greedy Italians' on BBC1 last Wednesday. It's the latest offering of that genre where to be frank the cooking is very secondary to the characters, the stories and the fabulous landscape. After some 45 minutes, I found myself being gently seduced by the scenery, the banter between the two main characters, the classy classic car and then suddenly when least expecting it - bham - a smack in the face and work! The viewer suddenly becomes aware that our two characters are not visiting just any old vineyard and winery, but rather we have entered the utterly surreal world of drug rehabilitation, Italian style.

The San Patrignano project near Rimini is truely amazing in terms of scale, aspiration and concept. A massive 1,000 bed therapeutic residential community, funded entirely by charitable giving and the sale of some of the most mouth watering food and wine you could ever hope to sample. Throughout my entire career I have bemoaned the lack of residential drug rehabilitation beds and instead our reliance on community-based methadone prescribing. This one-size-fits-all approach simply doesn't work and is so narrow and unsophisticated in concept.

Well here in stark contrast we have an absolutely fabulous example of how the whole person can be treated in a truly holistic manner and helped to achieve their full potential as human beings irrespective of their backgrounds and in a drug free environment. Not a hint of methadone anywhere, the residents are asked to sign up to a determination to work towards a life without drugs. Quite clearly many residents have significant criminal backgrounds in addition to addictions and emotional problems, but seemingly benefit from quite lengthy stays measured in years rather than months. And who couldn't benefit from a lengthy stay in such beautiful surroundings living on fine food and wine?

Until I saw this, I had been pretty impressed with the Clink Restaurant experiment at HMP High Down, but this Italian project is something else and I would urge anyone vaguely interested in the mostly depressing subject of drug addiction to have a look at episode one which I gather will remain on i-player until the end of May. As you watch, just absorb the fantastic attention to the design detailing of the whole facility and ask yourself if it looks like a drug rehab to you? Having recently been on holiday to Italy, I have to say that their flair and skill in design is something to behold and should put us all to shame back here. This programme shows that good Italian design encompasses more than just the fabric though. A real lift to the spirit!


  1. Addiction defines a persons identity. It dictates what you do, and it's what you do that lays the fabrics and blocks that shape identity. The labels that are attached to an addict may compound things, but it's the addiction itself that creates the identity.
    Physical dependency is painful and traumatic, but short lived, and the first nessary step to beating addiction. Staying clean is the complicated bit. A whole new identity is needed, a re-creation of the self.
    A three year programme as described above goes a very long way in addressing that need for a changed identity, it should be applauded, but there's also a concern for me.
    An addict can go to prison for three years, create a new identity for themselves, often a healthy one in the gym, stay off drugs the whole three years, but when that newfound identity is removed upon release, the familiar structures, the people gone that see you as your new identity defines you, many return to their old familiar selfs and begin to use again.
    Spending three years in a community described above, helping to build that community, getting a sense of purpose and self worth, and doing so with a shared commonality with the others on the programme must certainly create that new identity. But it's only temporary and there must be a huge sense of loss when the time comes to move on.
    Those are dangers that I hope the programme can mitigate along the way, and I hope all that are lucky enough to be part of it really find it a life changing experience.


    1. Similar thoughts and I see value in the scheme as you do. For the majority though services need I think to focus on those issues in the local community which requires continuity of investment in community resources.


  3. No one saying anything about a connection between rising violent crime in London and the decimation of probation service as well as criminal breeding grounds that prisons have become? Cuts to public sector including the massive cuts to youth service and policing over past 10 years or so, social services and YOT's mean far less preventative work and opportunities to divert young people from crime. Social media and addiction of millions of young people to violent gaming is also playing a part. In addition reduction in time parents can spend with their children because they are having to work flat out to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. Not rocket science really!