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Church fights for alcoholics centre

Highland Council plans to slash inverness Beechwood House funding by £200,000 next year

Church leaders yesterday joined the fight to keep open the only 24-hour centre for alcoholics in Inverness.

Inverness Presbytery is calling on the agencies involved in Beechwood House to work together to allow it to continue.

It came as a Highlands and Islands MSP urged the Scottish Government to help projects like Beechwood House, which is run by voluntary organisation CrossReach, if they want to tackle alcohol misuse.

The Designated Place unit is under threat of closure, with the loss of 10 jobs, because Highland Council plans to slash its funding by £200,000 next year.

The local authority wanted NHS Highland and Northern Constabulary to contribute towards the funding, but attempts to persuade them have failed.

In a report to the presbytery, its social responsibility committee convener, the Rev Ricky Reid, said 75% of those who use Beechwood House are among the “most vulnerable and at-risk alcohol abusers”.

He urged that funding be maintained until a proposed investigation into the consequences of closure was available for consideration.

He also stressed that consideration be given to the 2008 HM Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland report, which argued that police cells were not the best place for those who are intoxicated.

Mr Reid demanded “a commonsense appeal to slow down what appears to be a kneejerk reaction to the general funding crisis in Highland Council, and try to get the various agencies talking together”.

Yesterday, during a debate on minimum pricing in the Scottish Parliament, Labour MSP Rhoda Grant called for a “a joined-up approach to tackling alcohol misuse in our communities”.

She said: “Minimum pricing has yet to be tested, but facilities like Beechwood House have a proven track record and need proper levels of support maintained.

“If the government is serious about tackling harmful drinking and saving lives they have to get real about the facilities such as Beechwood, not only ensuring that they are funded but ensuring that there is increased capacity.

“If minimum pricing was the only avenue to tackle alcohol abuse most would support it, however my concern is that steps that would make a difference are being ignored, possibly because they are more complex.”

source: Press & Journal

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