Former mayor who lost her daughter to alcohol calls for improvements to Shropshire's addiction services

A former Shrewsbury mayor has vowed to campaign in her daughter's memory for better support for those suffering with alcohol and drug addiction.

Jane Mackenzie with a photograph of her daughter Amy Liebich
Jane Mackenzie with a photograph of her daughter Amy Liebich

Councillor Jane Mackenzie made the pledge at a meeting of supporters of her fledgling charity, Share Shrewsbury, which launched last year just days before the death of her daughter Amy Liebich.

Share aims to support those battling with addiction and their friends and family, as well as campaigning for changes to be made to support services and challenging the stigma around addiction.

Opening the meeting, Councillor Mackenzie said: "I must start by talking about someone, without whom Share would not exist.

"Someone who inspired me to support local drug and alcohol services as my charity when I was mayor, and whose own terrible battle with alcohol dependence gave me the experience, knowledge and motivation to set up share.

"I am talking about my eldest daughter, Amy, of course.

"We launched the charity on May 3 last year, and you'll all know that Amy died 12 days later on May 15, after being let down by services which were not able to give her the help she needed to escape the grip of alcohol addiction.

"As a family, our grieving continues, and sadly the pain we feel is shared with many other families and friends living locally whose loved ones have also died.

"There is a desperate need to improve the support for people suffering from substance use disorder.

"My experience is that services do not have the expertise, skills, treatment options or programmes in place to appropriately treat those in need of help"

Councillor Mackenzie said the policies of existing support services were pushing vulnerable people away, including policies that see clients discharged after two missed appointments, and the need to have been sober for six months before a mental health assessment.

She questioned why sufferers of addiction were not treated in the same way as those with other medical conditions, and why it is not considered a safeguarding issue to protect people engaging in behaviour that is causing them harm.

"To make things even worse, the massive stigma experienced by sufferers means that the vast majority will never seek help," said Councillor Mackenzie.

"It is a complete betrayal that those who do pluck up the courage to engage with services often do not get the support they need."

Consensus

Among the supporters present at the meeting were representatives from other charities including TACT in Telford, professionals such as nurses and social workers, and those who shared their own personal stories of addiction and those they have lost to the condition.

There was applause, tears, and the shared consensus that changes are desperately needed within Shropshire's addiction services to stop people falling through the cracks.

Since its launch last year, the charity has opened the Share Centre in the Riverside shopping centre – where it hosts a young mums' group and wellbeing signposting sessions – and developed links with businesses and organisations like Shrewsbury Town Football Club.

Share has also begun to work with pubs, alcohol retailers and restaurants to promote non-alcoholic social drinking and encouraging them to increase the range of non-alcoholic drinks on offer.

Councillor Mackenzie said that in 2020 one of the charity's main aims was to campaign to improve the treatment offered to sufferers.

To that end, it is calling on Shropshire Council, which commissions the county's drug and alcohol services, to introduce dual diagnosis for physical and mental health conditions at the point of entry into the service; develop early intervention strategies and its approach to working with resistant clients; and to abolish its 'two strikes' policy regarding missed appointments.

This year Share will also be launching a small grants scheme to offer financial support to those in recovery, and establish a supported housing scheme in collaboration with TACT which runs a similar project in Telford.

Following the meeting, Councillor Mackenzie said: "I am really thrilled so many people came. There is a lot of knowledge in the room and they are all saying the same thing about local services not being adequate.

"I am not blaming the services themselves, their funding has been slashed.

"But you would not treat people with any other medical condition this way.

"When we tried to get help for Amy, we were told to let her hit rock bottom. You would not, for any other condition, do that."

The charity is also appealing for volunteers, particularly to help with admin, and anyone who would like to offer their time is asked to get in touch through the website at shareshrewsbury.org.uk

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