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Addicts commit crime to get rehab says Amy Winehouse’s father

Friday, October 23rd, 2009 Addicts commit crime to get rehab says Amy Winehouse’s father

Drug users are forced to commit crime in order to be considered for rehab, according to Amy Winehouse’s father.

Mitch Winehouse has told MPs that drug addicts who commit criminal offences were often given places in residential rehabilitation centres as part of their punishment, whereas those who were waiting to get help, but refraining from criminal activity, were having to wait over a year for treatment.

Mitch, is the father of singer Amy Winehouse, has supported his daughter thorough her very public battle with drink and drugs.

Mr Winehouse, who is currently filming a documentary on drug use, said that he has heard many stories about people who have turned to crime in order to be considered for rehab after finding themselves unable to get treatment through the normal channels.

“Anecdotally, people are definitely committing offences so they can have a chance, and it’s only a chance, of receiving treatment,” he said. “The biggest impact on families is that there is very little help available to them, especially if their relative is a non-offending addict.

“Their first port of call will be the GP and then they will refer them on to the local health authority.

“The problem that we have found in our research in London is that there is a period of a year before any treatment can be given. It’s very difficult, and the reason for this is the majority of funding is taken up by the criminal justice system.”

Winehouse also speaks from his own experience after his former son-in-law, Blake Fielder-Civil was offered a period in residential rehab as part of his sentence.

He said: “So we have a situation where a non-offending addict and his family are looking for help and there are very few resources available to them.”

However, the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA), which is part of the NHS, has dismissed Mr Winehouse’s claims and said that waiting lists in England for drug treatment had fallen to an average of one week. The agency added that 93% of people were offered help within three weeks, including those who required treatment in a residential rehabilitation centre.

Paul Hayes, the NTA’s chief executive, said: “Drug treatment in England has never been more available to members of the public who need it. We think it is important that the public knows that, if they or a family member needs help, they can get it on the NHS.”

Earlier, the committee of MPs had asked two drug policy experts about the scale of Britain’s cocaine problem.

Professor Neil McKeganey, from the centre for drug misuse research at Glasgow University, described the rise in cocaine use as “very worrying” and expressed his concerns that it may one day rival the scale of heroin misuse.

Mr McKeganey added that he believed that drug prevention policies were to blame for the UK’s drug problem rather than the influence of drug-taking celebrities, however he did add: “. I think that [celebrity drug use] doesn’t help matters, but it doesn’t have a substantial impact on young people taking drugs.”

Steve Rolles, head of research at the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, agreed. “It’s a red herring and reflects politicians’ concerns with tabloid obsessions more than anything else,” he said.

“There are drug wars in Colombia and we must move on from what Amy Winehouse does on her weekends.”

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