Straight to voicemail

It’s been two days since I’ve spoken to Ben. He won’t answer the phone or his mobile. He won’t answer my Skype calls. I’ve asked a friend to contact him. Most of the time, he won’t answer her calls either.

Meanwhile, I have been searching for detox centres. One of them quoted a fee of 4000 pounds for two weeks. None of us has that kind of money to throw around. Given that Ben used up all the public funding he had from our borough on his day rehab programme (the day programme he failed from day 1 because he was drinking on the sly), it is very unlikely that he will access another detox through the NHS. So, we have to go private.

I think most families of addicts end up here. Having exhausted all avenues through the NHS, they have little choice but to go private. It is not something I believe in, in principle, because, as Danny Boyle’s Olympic tour-de-force so movingly showed, the NHS is a great British initiative founded on the most basic principle: that everyone is entitled to quality healthcare, whatever their financial means.

But here we are. The NHS has helped us, yes. Ben has been detoxed twice already and received a generous funding package for him to go into a rehab day programme. But the  fact remains that he was given the wrong care, because the NHS blindly follows guidelines motivated by budgetary concerns. Because he hadn’t received care in the community the funding panel, in their infinite wisdom, chose to send Ben to a day programme rather than a residential one. Everyone, including Ben’s own care manager, knew this was the wrong choice. In the end, it was a waste of public money.

So, here we are. There is no guarantee that going private won’t be a waste of private money, but what other choice do we have?

How do I feel about all this? In refusing to answer my calls, in provoking and sustaining my anxiety, Ben has done the unforgivable. Yes, I will sort out his detox. Yes, I will ensure he gets from there to rehab (well, my friend will). I may even try to sort out an exit plan for him, once rehab is over. That exit will probably entail him going back to Australia. Because I don’t want him back in my home.

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Assessing his rehab needs

Ben is out of hospital. He came out last Friday evening, groggy and irritable. I spent the whole weekend plus the last few days in a state of acute anxiety.

I watched Ben every time he went outside for a cigarette, and refused to let him go anywhere without a chaperone. On Monday, he had his community care assessment – his assessment for rehab – at our local NHS drug and alcohol service.

This was our make-or-break appointment. It was our opportunity to work with the community care assessor, Hanife, to build a case supporting Ben’s request for rehab. His case would then go before a funding panel which would approve or reject Ben’s application.

From the beginning, it was clear that Hanife was on our side. She had already been in regular contact with me. She tried to get the hospital to postpone Ben’s discharge to Monday, advised me on how to keep Ben busy post-detox, warned me it was(is) a dangerous time – where the likelihood of relapse is very high.

Hanife’s default position was that Ben needed residential rehab. We talked about why Ben felt he needed rehab, what his motivation was, what his objectives were. The complexities of his illness and treatment were unpacked. There was the urgent need to address his depression, anxiety and severe sleep deprivation. He needed space to explore his broken family relationships, and the time to rebuild his confidence and self-esteem.

There were questions about Ben’s ‘human capital‘ and ‘social capital‘ – government speak – all of which only reminded us that the funding panel’s decision to approve or not approve Ben’s application was governed entirely by financial concerns.  But Hanife seemed positive and ready to do battle with the panel in order to get what we needed. We felt we were in good hands.

The assessment took just over two hours. We came out feeling hopeful. Ben seemed less anxious. Nevertheless, I had set up a rota to cover the days when I couldn’t be at home with Ben. One of my friends came up from South London to spend the day with him on Tuesday. Another travelled from Cambridge to be with him yesterday, despite Ben’s protestations. ‘A bit unnecessary,’ he kept saying, acquiescing only to humour me.

We were preparing ourselves for a decision, which was due either this or next Wednesday. When it came, it unhinged us all.

Step 5 – Don’t be disheartened by NHS red tape

Ben has been waiting for treatment for his alcohol addiction for several months now. We have been through the mill, raising the alarm about his deteriorating condition as early as last October. Five months of chasing later, and it really was Ben’s GP’s intervention that opened the crucial door.

But my worry lately has been whether we are too late – whether Ben’s health has declined so dramatically that an urgent hospital admission will be necessary, scuppering our hopes of getting Ben into a long-term treatment programme.

Today, we made one minor (possibly major) breakthrough. Ben’s new key worker, Marc, confirmed that the appointment we had been waiting for with the community care assessor – the one which will determine whether or not Ben is a suitable candidate for residential rehab – is finally happening on Monday.

Apparently, Ben’s manager will be making this assessment. It is unclear to me why this couldn’t have been done earlier, since Marc had said that Ben needed to be assessed by someone external to our local NHS drug and alcohol service and now it transpires that someone within the service, namely a manager, is also qualified to do it. I am biting my tongue right now, saving my queries or complaints for later, since the main objective is currently within sight.

Even Ben seems to have been buoyed by this latest news and was upright when I got home with Rosie this evening. He’d managed to prepare the bathtub for her and roast some potatoes for dinner. He’d put a load of washing in the machine. And he’d taken out the rubbish. This new found, if limited, energy can only be attributed to a renewed sense of hope.

Ben’s GP has also been very good at ringing us back when we’ve left messages for him. He has been the lynch-pin in this whole process. Without his intervention, we would still be at sea.

Still, we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves. Marc was very clear with me today that things would not happen ‘over night’. Once the assessment on Monday is complete, the team’s recommendations for Ben’s treatment – namely for detox and residential rehab – need to go before a funding panel. The panel meets every Wednesday, but there is no guarantee whether that paperwork will be completed in time for it to be submitted by the coming Wednesday, in which case, we are facing yet another week’s delay.

And if the panel rejects the application, we are back to square one.

I prefer to assume that the panel will pass the application. I can’t believe that all my complaining/lobbying/beseeching will come to nought. If it comes to it, I have further avenues to pursue – starting with Ben’s GP, again. As long as he remains on our side, Ben has a good chance of finally getting the treatment he desperately needs.