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Bermudians addicts urged to join UK-based rehab programme

Providing support: Bermudian Llewelyn Gomes is working as an addiction counsellor in the UK (Photograph supplied)

Bermudians suffering from drug and alcohol addiction are being encouraged to attend a recovery programme in the UK that caters to Black and ethnic minority patients.

Bermudian Llewelyn Gomes, a recovery coach for Nottingham-based BAC-IN — Black and Asian Cultural Identification of Narcotics — made the plea during a virtual presentation to Hamilton Lions on Tuesday.

Mr Gomes said that four Bermudian addicts living in Britain had attended the programme, with interest growing as the Bermudian population in the UK increased.

He added that Bermudians living in Bermuda could benefit from undergoing rehabilitation outside the island.

Mr Gomes said: “We would like encourage Bermudians in Bermuda to take advantage of the opportunities that we have here.

“We provide a safe place for Bermudians where they can share without worrying about things getting back to family or friends.

“There’s confidentiality and the relaxation of sharing — it’s a safe place for them to get involved. Also, being away from their peers in Bermuda, the association with drugs and people and places to go ... a change of environment is here.

“Educational opportunities are here as well and the healthcare system is free. We have had people who have needed healthcare in the UK and it has not cost them anything, so there’s many benefits, for education, healthcare and employment.

“Then they can return to Bermuda having completed these programmes and have something to offer the community.”

Mr Gomes was joined by BAC-IN’s founder and managing director, Sohan Sahota, who blasted healthcare services in Britain for marginalising ethnic minorities.

Mr Sahota, a recovering addict, said: “We developed the organisation because there were gaps in our mainstream drug and alcohol treatment and recovery services in Nottingham.

“There was a low uptake of our current services. Our communities were not taking up those services and that’s when we created our own organisation — to give people choice, where they can come to an organisation that would reflect their needs and reflect their cultural heritage and create a safe space where they can talk about issues around discrimination, racial trauma, spirituality, faith.

“We found talking about these aspects of our background in other recovery spaces or other services difficult because we’re in the minority. Here we’re in the majority. This allows people to come and share some of the pressing issues and underlying problems which accompany their addiction.

“We feel that in our communities in Nottingham there are big problems with addiction and crime and homelessness, and we should have the right for services. There should be services where we can go to and have our needs met. We should not be creating our own services, that should be a mainstay.

“We have not had any funding from local commissioning for the last seven or eight years yet we are supporting at least 100 families a year with drug and alcohol issues.

“The best people or organisations placed to address those problems is people from the communities — from the ethnic minority communities. I’m sad to say our Caucasian services have failed us for decades.”

He added: “I’m a person in recovery for 20 years and I went through all the mental health and drug and health services within this time and I didn’t get the help that I needed — I was almost written off.

“Very little has changed over that period of time. It’s almost like the black and brown communities in the UK are forgotten — marginalised, disadvantaged, underserved, forgotten and neglected.

“The UK claims to have one of the best healthcare services in the world — not for ethnic minority communities. We are being failed at the level of mental health.

“[Addicts] just need an opportunity and a space where they can get well and if the space isn’t provided by the state we must create those spaces. We must challenge the system, challenge the inequalities.

“If mainstream services can’t help us they must allow us to help ourselves and invest in us and our community organisations.”

The BAC-IN website is www.bac-in.org.

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Published April 28, 2022 at 7:46 am (Updated April 28, 2022 at 7:46 am)

Bermudians addicts urged to join UK-based rehab programme

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