An acclaimed drug and alcohol addiction clinic has been given just months to relocate, amid fears its sudden departure could lead recovering addicts to relapse.
The Lothians and Edinburgh Abstinence Programme (LEAP), a community-based initiative for people trying to beat drug and alcohol problems, has been embraced by the residents of Stockbridge.
But the Church of Scotland’s Social Care Council – CROSSREACH – has given the clinic until January to move out of Malta House where it is based.
Supporters of the clinic have set up a Facebook campaign and a petition calling for the clinic – which was recently praised by Community Safety minister Fergus Ewing – to remain where it is. The Church of Scotland has said developers have expressed an interest in the site, and confirmed LEAP would have to relocate by January, although no final decision on the sale had been made.
Former LEAP patient, Kerrie Walker, said: “It’s absolutely devastating.
“Before I had been drinking in the morning to avoid withdrawal, I couldn’t cope without alcohol and my three kids were on the Child Protection Register.
“But now I have been sober for 14 months and I know if I’m struggling, I can still go to them.
“If there is any disruption to the aftercare service, a lot of people could relapse.”
Margaret Watt of the Scotland Patients Association said: “It sounds as if the Church of Scotland are putting money before people’s lives – the wellbeing of patients must be put first.”
And Edinburgh-based drugs advice group Crew said relocating the centre could have a serious impact.
“This kind of upheaval has huge potential to have an impact of peoples recovery,” a spokesman said. “Location is a key factor in people accessing and staying in treatment as people require access to good transport links from many parts of the Lothians which may not be maintained with a move to another location.”
Shadow Health Secretary Jackie Baillie described the news as “disappointing”, and said: “I would urge the Church of Scotland to reconsider.
“At the very least, the clinic should be afforded more time to relocate.”
Dr David McCartney, Clinical NHS Lothian said: “We would like to reassure patients, their families, staff and partners that LEAP will continue to provide treatment to patients with substance dependence problems.
“We are sad at the prospect of leaving Malta House as many people have started their recovery from addiction here and it has met our needs very well. We are now exploring with our partners all of our possible options.”
The move has also been criticised by local residents, who are campaigning against the centre being relocated.
Local resident Michael Mochrie said: “It all seems to have been done in such an underhand manner.
“The clinic has only got six months to find somewhere else, that might be do-able for a family home but they have a clinic to relocate.”
A Church of Scotland spokesman said the clinic had been warned the building could be sold.
He said: “CROSSREACH have a number of developers who have expressed an interest in Malta House but at this time, the Finance and Resources Committee have not made a decision as to the future of the building.”