Saturday, November 05, 2011

Brockley Drug Service - Just Say Yes!

Lewisham Council is proposing to open a new drug and alcohol treatment service in Brockley Cross. They say:

'Lewisham Council and NHS Lewisham jointly fund a drug and alcohol treatment service. The service is currently based at New Direction, 410 Lewisham High Street. This is backed up by a service for users in the south of the borough at Dartmouth Road, Forest Hill. Many service users will also get regular services - such as repeat prescriptions and needle exchange - through their local GP or pharmacist.

The service has had some real successes but we think we could achieve much more if our sites were better located - so that service users from the south and the north of the borough were better able to access them. In particular, we have many service users in Brockley, Deptford and New Cross that would benefit from a site more local to them.

We are proposing to establish a new treatment site in Shardeloes Road, Brockley. This new site would be the main service site for users in the north of the borough and, together with the Dartmouth Road site in the south, would mean service users from all over the borough would be able to travel easily to access the service. The New Direction site would become the main site for after-care, helping improve the overall service further by reducing the numbers of service users who relapse. We welcome your views on this proposal.

As we want to cover a larger area of Lewisham to help more people access treatment, we aim to have a treatment service in the north of the borough. Most areas of the country have drug services based within local communities and Brockley has been identified as being in need of services to provide help and support to local people.

The building is on the main road and has good public transport services. The railway station is close by, and bus services are frequent. It is therefore an ideal location, making the centre accessible to local residents. The building is appropriate for drug and alcohol treatment, as it offers space for the kinds of services and interventions required'.

(see consultation here)

The proposal has generated some strong support and some strong opposition, as indicated by the arguments in the comments threads of Brockley Central.

I am in favour of this project because there are plenty of people with drug and alcohol problems round here and they need support. Substance users are not some kind of contagion threatening to invade and pollute Brockley, they are already here. People are being shot on the streets of Brockley in conflicts that are partly about the drugs trade - this trade is supplying a local demand (I'm not saying that it's worse in Brockley than in say New Cross or Deptford, but no reason to think it's significantly different).

Drug and alcohol problems are widespread at all levels of society, and there but for fortune could have gone - or maybe still will - some of the many other people who have used drugs or had periods of heavy drinking during their lives (no doubt including some of the objectors as well as supporters).

If the services work (which they certainly do for some), they actually make the area safer as well as improving the lives of the service users. One of the problems with services like these is that the people who need them most are often not highly motivated to travel to access them, or to put it another way those living nearest to the service are more likely to use and benefit from them. So arguably the people who are concerned about the behaviour of some substance users should be happy that the ones living in their area will be more likely to get support if there is a local facility.

Shardeloes Road

The proposed site is the former bank building at the Brockley Cross end of Shardeloes Road.

Personally I would love to see a nice new, spacious, purpose-built facility but that seems unlikely right now. In terms of location though, Brockley Cross is as good a place as any. Services in a densely-populated city can never be far from residential areas - and if they were they would probably be inaccessible. But nobody will be living next door to this centre - it has the timber yard on one side, and a church on the other. Shardeloes Road becomes residential further along but you have to go quite a way before you come to anybody's front door. The horrors of the Brockley Cross traffic junction act as a formidable barrier between the proposed centre and homes elsewhere in the area.

The proximity to the nursery round the corner has been mentioned by some, but is not really material. Obviously children there are safe and have no contact with people on the streets except travelling to and from the nursery. It is a daycare provision (8 am to 6 pm), which means most children are being dropped off and picked up at the ends of the parents' working day, outside of the times when the drug and alcohol service is likely to be busiest.

If the service is run properly by the very experienced CRI drugs charity any problems should be minimal and outweighed by the benefits. If there are difficulties, I have no doubt that the very vocal Brockley Cross Action Group will be able to make its views known and sort it out with the Council.

You can give your views to Lewisham here.


Anonymous said...

I support your view Transpontine, the 'debates' at Brockley central are mostly uneducated and reactionary, as an ex-user I can see clearly that these places serve a crucial function and simply to tar all users with the same brush shows how narrow-minded some people can be.

Perhaps when this service is opened some of the Brockley chattering classes would like to drop in and lend a hand rather than talking through ignorance.

Anonymous said...

Transpontine, you didn't answer the question put to you on Brockley Central: How are people from Deptford to get there? There is no public transport from Deptford for me or others like me to use.

The only place that suits all three areas (New Cross, Deptford, Brockley) is New Cross, as this is connected to both of the other areas.

I wish people would think about the patients rather than trying to score points about who is more tolerant.

Transpontine said...

My understanding is that there is currently only one facility like this, in Lewisham town centre. Having two will presumably make services more accessible, but wherever they are they will be nearer to some people than others. Moving to New Cross would for instance be further away for people from Brockley. The proposed location is not far from some parts of Deptford, but further from others.

If service users were campaigning for the centre to be somewhere else that would be different. But it seems to be that most of those campaigning against the Brockley Cross centre have never given the slightest thought to the needs of Deptford drug users, and are only raising this as an issue in order to prevent this service going ahead in Brockley.

It is obvious that some of those opposed believe that the service users are intrinsically undesirable and they don't want them in Brockley Cross. So I don't think we can ignore the 'tolerance' issue.

In any event we have to deal with the real proposal on the table. I am not aware that any empty, suitable and affordable building has been identified in New Cross. An actual service in Brockley is definitely preferable to an imaginary one somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

But I am a patient who lives in Deptford. I can't easily get to Brockley. Nor can Brockley patients get to Deptford because there is no public transport link. It's easy for both groups of people to reach New Cross. I don't have a car.

The Council says its doing this to be accessible. So make it accessible!!

All i know is if you want to help me (and others in Deptford) you should support a centre in New Cross that's good 4 everyone.

Another Anon said...

Brockley Cross isn't that hard to get too from most bits of Deptford, you've only got to get to Lewisham Way and then there's two buses which go right by it.

A centre in New Cross might be nearer to some Deptford people, but that depends exactly where it was and where they live. For instance Shardeloes Rd is nearer to Tanners Hill Estate than some parts of New Cross

gocz said...

Hi Neil. To be fair there has been vocal querying as to why the new centre isn't going to be at the Waldron. From a transport point of view this is clearly the most advantageous - as it is from an ancilliary support point of view.
The question has been asked a number of times in the various question and answer sessions with the council yet no reason has been provided. There is just something odd about the old bank building that doesnt quite make sense.
Your point about positioning such centres nearest to those who need to use them is sensible and has no doubt led in part to this decision. There are many on Shardeloes Road now beginning to take a little more seriously the long held rumor that a number of undisclosed half way houses exist in the housing between Shardeloes and Malpas. It would be fascinating if the council could confirm this - but again they have evaded the issue when asked.

Transpontine said...

Of course there's supported housing, halfway houses etc. for people with all kinds of needs and problems in residential streets all round Brockley, New Cross and Deptford (drugs, mental illness, domestic violence, HIV etc.). It is quite right that the Council doesn't reveal where they are, the people who live there are entitled to their privacy - do the neighbours' really need to know their business?

The Council would probably be breaking the law if it implicitly disclosed personal information about people by saying, for instance, that the house they live in is for people with HIV or with drug problems.

I wouldn't be opposed to a Centre in the Waldron as such, but I think people who have argued against Shardeloes on the basis of it being residential would be inconsistent in supporting this. The Waldron entrance is nearer to neighbours homes than the bank building is.

In any event, I don't think the Council run the Waldron so it's not in their gift.

At the risk of repeating myself, the problem is that the starting point for this debate has not been a body of people with an interest in drug treatment rationally discussing where the best place for it would be, within the budget and operational constraints the Council now faces. Rather a group of people have decided that they don't want the Centre in Brockley, most of them for reasons that do not start from the needs of the potential clients.

Paxman said...

What Brockley Cross needs is a new crack house.

I'm rattling in here!

Anonymous said...

Transpontine I would be glad if you would respect my question by answering it please. How am I as a patient in deptford supposed to get to this place? There is no train. There are no buses. It is a 40 minute walk. I have a job and some dependents. If this centre is to serve Deptford then it needs to be accessible to us in Deptford. This isn't. to the person who said New Cross was just as far away, it's not about distance, it's about transport links. Brockley is only good for getting to central London. No good for the rest of the borough.

Please don't let the Council off the hook like this. We need to put the patients first otherwise this won't work.

It makes me sad that money is being put ahead of patients like this.

Transpontine said...


I am completely neutral on whether Brockley is a better location than New Cross or Deptford. Clearly if you are in Deptford you would prefer something nearer.

I think the Council should listen to its service users, though I don't expect they all have the same views.

But if the Council were to back away from opening drug services every time a group of residents gets wound up, there wouldn't be any in Brockley, Deptford, New Cross or anywhere else.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for responding Transpontine but you aren't neutral on the subject. You are campaigning for it to be here and not somewhere else. You say "this is as good as any place" as though the needs of patients don't matter.

I am not saying it should be handy for me, I am saying that the Council says it needs to serve three areas: Deptford, New Cross and Brockley.

These areas are like three points on a triangle. New Cross is connected to Brockley and to Deptford. Brockley and Deptford are not connected at all. Just look at a bus map or a train map and see what I mean please.

I am asking for the needs of all patients (not users please) to be considered. Please listen to the views of Deptford patients. We need your help and consideration.

Transpontine said...

I wouldn't say I was campaigning - I am just expressing a view. But I am not arguing strongly this is the best possible location - rather I am arguing against the campaign against this location, in so far as it is not concerned enough with the needs of users.

As I have already said several times, if users feel strongly against this service that would be a different matter. Of course most those users are already in contact with the existing service, so the best way forward would be for them to speak directly to Lewisham and/or arrange a meeting. Anonymous comments at blogs won't carry much weight, because nobody will be able to tell whether they genuinely reflect the opinions of a wide body of users.

Of course, those people who favour a New Cross location would have to deal with the same arguments as are being put forward in Brockley, assuming a building could be found, such as the Telegraph Hill Centre or the GP practice at the bottom of Erlanger Road for instance.

Anonymous said...

Expressing a view / writing an article saying "just say yes" / campaiging. It doesn't really matter what you want to call it. You were starting a debate and supporting the project.

Maybe you have come to the wrong conclusion for the "right" reasons. Maybe the action group have come to the right conclusion for the "wrong" reasons. I don't care about people's motives. I care about getting the right result for patients.

That's why it's important to deal with the real issues and not what people might secretly feel. This site does not serve the needs of Deptford. Deptford does not serve the needs of Brockley. Only New Cross (not Telegraph Hill) works well for everyone. That is a simple point that I would like recognised.

It might also interest you to know that I and other patients don't really want to go to a quiet neighborhood full of curtain twitching residents. We want to go to a place like Lewisham High Street where no one pays any attention to us.

Please support patient need. Don't use us as pawns in neighborhood games.

And don't worry, I will also be talking to my Councillor.

William Burroughs said...

Anonymous, R U R Real? How many users call themselves patients?

Anonymous said...

@William, yes and your name is tasteless. I'm sorry we don't conform to your stereotypes. I am not a "user", I am a patient being treated for a disease.

This is the problem. Those who presume to speak for our interests don't know what the hell they are talking about. At least the action group know the people who they speak for. And at least they took time to think about the suitability of the site.

Transpontine, I am glad that now that you have thought about the patient need, your position seems to have shifted from "just say yes!" to "maybe, I don't know. Perhaps there are other places that might be better."

I hope the Council also stops to think about it in the same way. But "just say yes" (which by the way, is a bit tasteless too) articles don't help people to stop and think.

Thank you.

Transpontine said...

Well I can't speak for W.B. but I like to think I do something about this subject. I was dealing with the same ill-informed arguments (e.g. that services cause problems because they attract users) when I was involved with needle exchanges twenty years ago and since, and professionally and personally I have seen it all before.

I don't think my position has really shifted, it is as follows:

1. I am in favour of the treatment centre being on Shardeloes Road in terms of being strongly against what I see as being the irrational arguments of many of its opponents. I find it slightly odd that you appear to have nothing much to say about arguments that have included: a. drug users don't deserve support, it's a lifestyle choice and they have brought it all on themselves; b.providing services will just attract anti-social behaviour etc. etc.

2. I believe that there is a need for a service like this in our area, the Brockley proposal has at least got a building identified and would be a whole lot better than no service at all, which I see as being a real risk if this does not go ahead.

3. Leaving aside the NIMBY arguments, if users and the Council can identify a better alternative that would be fine with me (but that's a matter for them, not Transpontine, Brockley Central or Brockley Cross Action Group).

I would be interested in hearing what other users/patients think about this, I can't speak for them but not sure any one person can either.

Personally I would like to see a lot more services in many different areas. We know that's not going to happen right now, so wherever it is won't suit everybody.

The tension between confidentiality and accessibility is a real issue, as you identify.

Brockley Cross might not be the best place in terms of public transport links with Deptford, but it actually scores quite highly on your 'curtain twitching' criteria as it is not directly overlooked by housing.

The Waldron Centre might have better public transport links (assuming there was space available) but it is also an extremely busy health centre, some users might have concerns about it being too public.

Not sure where else there is - you are not keen on the Telegraph Hill Centre. The former GP practice on Erlanger Road is very much in New Cross, not sure what capacity it has though. There are some vacant shop fronts on New Cross Road, but these are much more public than Brockley Cross.

Do people have any other ideas?

Anonymous said...

"1. I am in favour of the treatment centre being on Shardeloes Road in terms of being strongly against what I see as being the irrational arguments of many of its opponents. I find it slightly odd that you appear to have nothing much to say about arguments that have included: a. drug users don't deserve support, it's a lifestyle choice and they have brought it all on themselves; b.providing services will just attract anti-social behaviour etc. etc."

Those arguments are silly and were only voiced by a small number of people. Certainly not by the action group. Besides, being "against" those views doesn't get us very far, as you have demonstrated. You didn't like some of those views, so threw you decided that the project they are opposed to must deserve your support, ignoring the fact that it's not a suitable site for patients.

Your enemy's enemy is not your friend Transpontine.

People's worries about anti-social behaviour I don't see as a comment on the individuals. People object to pubs for the same reason, I don't think they are criticising pub-goers. I don't think I am villified for having an addiction. My disease is treated with respect.
You think you are leaping to the defence of people like me, but we don't need you to defend our honour, we need you to think through the options and help us secure the best option.

I do not know the building, but I know Brockley Cross and it is a tiny little place. Nothing like Lewisham High Street (which is also very accessible for everyone in Deptford, New Cross and Brockley). It might not have a house right next door, but people will notice our comings and goings in a way that they don't at the moment.

I have heard it said that the Council is trying to cleanse Lewisham town centre. Sometimes it feels like it.

Dicon said...

"Shardeloes Road becomes residential further along but you have to go quite a way before you come to anybody's front door. The horrors of the Brockley Cross traffic junction act as a formidable barrier between the proposed centre and homes elsewhere in the area."

If you look at google maps you'll see that closer than residents of Shardloes Rd are residents of Millmark Grove, Malpas Rd, Geoffrey Rd, Endwell Rd and (on the other side of the Roundabout of Death) Cranfield Rd.

Some on Millmark Grove are just a few doors away.

It has to be said though that the proposed site is not overlooked by net curtains, twitching or otherwise.

Transpontine said...

OK maybe I have been a bit harsh on some of the opponents of this scheme. While some of the comments expressed fall into the familiar 'Brockley Hater' mode, I accept that there are those who are objecting in good faith from fear rather than malice.

For me it comes down to how to deal with the impact of addiction in communities. My view is that the things people most fear - dealer related violence and other drug-related crime - are already very well established round here. Providing help in the local area offers support to those at the sharp end that can ultimately break the spiral of addiction for some, and thus reduce some of these problems. But there is no magic solution that's going to make multi-faceted problems like this disappear. On balance I just think a service like this will do more good than harm - wherever it is.

I do think that some kind of proximity to where people live is unavoidable in a City though, whether here or in New Cross or Lewisham.