Dominic Ruffy, 39, is not a criminal, has a supportive family, is well educated and worked in the city as a head hunter for an investment banker earning hundreds of thousands of pounds.
When he first walked into Pierpoint addiction treatment centre, St Annes, he weighed eight stone and had a £700-a-day drug habit.
He is, says John Grady who founded Pierpoint’s centre network in south Fylde, “proof indeed that this illness can affect anyone”.
Dominic is now national chairman for the Concordat of Graduates of Full Recovery, a concept conceived by Pierpoint’s business manager Mark Styles, so clients could act as ambassadors for quality residential rehabilitation.
Dominic and graduates from 40 residential rehabilitation centres across the country meet politicians from both Houses of Parliament on October 10.
Their message is simple: recovery is not only possible but probable if more local authorities and health trusts make residential rehabilitation available to addicts who opt for abstinence rather than addiction to methadone.
At present there are no state-run residential rehab homes free at point of care. Some 31 residential treatment centres have closed in the last two-and-a-half years. Only a small percentage of addicts get funding from the local authority or primary care trust, according to the National Treatment Agency which represents 230,000 addicts in treatment at any given time.
Pierpoint’s graduates now have life skills to overcome addiction, and have won back self respect and the trust of loved ones along the way.
It’s not easy. John says he runs what amounts to a “boot camp” for addicts. He did it for “mercenary” motives initially, moving out of one sector of care as addiction offered a bigger client base potentially.
But he cared enough to want to make a difference to the men and women – and their families – who passed through.
Pierpoint is the last resort for many. It comes at a cost, from £1,400 for an inpatient detox to around £17,000 for a full programme of treatment and rehabilitation lasting up to 39 weeks. Referrals come from the NHS and local authorities, specialist services and from prisons. Only 30 per cent of clients are privately funded.
John stresses: “The cost is not a lot when you consider it can not only change the life of the addict, but also of the typically five people around them.
“The bottom line is that when there are people being admitted into rehab after having had 16 detoxes – or in one case 26 in just one year – at a cost of £2k a time to the state – whereas a rehab programme can see around one in three people stay abstinent for the long term, I think £17k versus £32k or even £52k is a good number. It’s not as though money is not being spent – it’s just its being wasted in the wrong places.
“An addict living in full addiction in the community may cost taxpayers an average of £86k a year, excluding their benefits.”
Dominic’s family financed his treatment. “We all knew this was my last chance.”
He’s now leading the delegation to meet 50 politicians including local MPs Paul Maynard and Mark Menzies, already impressed by the work of Pierpoint.
The network of 40 full recovery treatment centres wants to tell central government residential rehabilitation not only works but is more cost effective than sticking addicts into detox time and again or offering methadone maintenance as a default.
Many graduates have shed anonymity to lend further credibility to the campaign. The parliamentary launch also features the daughter of a Pierpoint graduate talking about her fight for over 21 years to get her mother, suffering drug and alcohol abuse, into effective treatment, and the devastating impact addiction had on the family.
Today she entrusts her two young children to their grandmother’s care at Gateway residential aftercare centre at Victoria Road, St Annes, which takes over where Pierpoint leaves off.
Her mother, who cannot be named, admits: “I’m a proper mother and grandmother at last. I have found myself and my family. I lost decades to addiction. Peer support pulled me through the bad days in an environment that is tough, emotionally, mentally and physically.”
Justin Nield started with booze and solvents at 15, has been a chronic addict for 20 years, in and out of jails and institutions. He admits: “You hit rock bottom. I have two young children and wanted to stop for them and my partner. I tried many times in the last 20 years. Some procedures you have to follow do more harm than good. It’s vital people listen to us.”
And Jonathan Armstrong, secretary of the concordat, concludes: “Just as addicts must acknowledge their problem, politicians must accept policies are throwing us away, sentencing addicts to criminality or endless methadone, when we could be leading productive lives.”