For too long now, the issue of the detox petition for Derry has been the subject of conspiracy, innuendo and half-truths.
Let’s remind ourselves of the current position of the petition were tens of thousands of people in the City demanded a detoxification centre.
The Health and Social Care Board initiated a consultation on detoxification and rehabilitation services and proposed a rejig of the services provided and their location.
Consultations were put forward by a range of sources and stakeholders, such as the Western Trust itself, political representatives and service providers. As we know from revelations exposed by this blog, the only response to argue for a detox centre in Derry was then-MLA Pat Ramsey.
All others, even that of other political representatives whose party had representatives in Derry, opted to support the Omagh centre.
Now, to the petition. It was submitted to the Assembly by Mr Ramsey with the agreement of leaders of the petition campaign in order to raise further publicity.
As had been re-iterated again and again, the process that was then followed was as below;
It has since been asked, where did the petition go?
Now, BtP can reveal exactly that.
After some months of investigation, ruling out the Public Health Agency which manages some relevant services, and other public agencies that the petition might have been sent to, the Department of Health has revealed some interesting information.
They were asked to reveal where the petition was, and to outline the advice given to the then-Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety by the Public Health Agency on the petition presented to the Assembly by Mr Ramsey.
In their response, the Department outlined that on 1st July 2014 the Speaker wrote to the Minister advising that the petition had been laid in the Assembly on 30th June.
In order to ‘facilitate a response to Pat Ramsey MLA information was sought from the Health and Social Care Board who emailed a joint response on behalf of the HSCB and PHA to the Department on 9th July 2014’.
The email briefing the Minister stated the following:
“Detoxification in the Foyle area takes place mostly in primary care through local GP’s. For more complex detoxification local Western Trust community addiction teams become involved and in a minority of cases people require medically supervised detoxification as an inpatient in a hospital.
Additionally between the Western Trust, Public Health Agency and Western DACT there is considerable investment across tiers 1-4 in Derry and the North West.
Clarity on the differences between detoxification services and other services to meet the needs of people with addiction issues must be maintained; e.g. a Detox centre is not a ‘crash centre’ or a ‘safe place’.
Regarding the detoxification services in the Western Trust area currently located at the Tyrone and Fermanagh Hospital site, these are available to the whole population of the Western Trust including the citizens of Derry City.
These services will be soon improved by moving to seven days per week, 24 hours per day to provide medically supervised detoxification and medically supervised rehabilitation.
In addition to these services the Western Trust commissions residential rehabilitation services in Derry at the Northlands centre”.
This was the advice to the Minister.
Now, for the fate of the petition.
Bearing in mind that the Trust itself responded to the consultation opting for Omagh instead of a purpose built centre in Derry as thousands had demanded, the Department has now officially confirmed that the Trust had been sent the petition in July 2014 – and did not include it in its own submission, nor is there any information held by the Department to indicate it took any action to pressure the HSCB on it.
The Trust simply ignored the petition.