THE demand for methadone is so high in Wrexham that health bosses have been forced to introduce a waiting list – with pregnant women and children at the front of the queue.
The shocking revelations emerged after magistrates expressed “extreme concern” at delays in providing drug addicts with prescriptions for the alternative drug methadone.
Bosses at Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board admitted they had been forced to introduce special measures to cope with the demand.
And most worryingly pregnant women and children under 16 were being given their ‘fixes’ first.
A Betsi Cadwaladr spokesman said: “Rising demand for substance misuse services in the Wrexham area mean that the health board’s Mental Health Service has taken the difficult decision to introduce a waiting list for people waiting for treatment.
“This had to be done to ensure the team can continue to provide safe and therapeutic services for the people already in its care as well as for new priority referrals.
“The service has to prioritise patients referred according to their individual health and social care needs.
“This means, for example, that pregnant women, children under 16 or situations where there are safeguarding considerations have to be assessed and treated most urgently.
“We are aware of the magistrates’ concerns and will be seeking a meeting with them to discuss these issues and to agree how we make sure the service receives the most appropriate referrals to make best use of resources in the current circumstances.
“We continue to work with the Welsh Assembly Government and other partner agencies to consider options to increase the capacity of the service.”
The issue was highlighted by the case of a man desperate to kick a heroin addiction who was placed on a drug rehabilitation requirement last month.
He had not received a prescription and had gone out to steal on two occasions in order to buy street drugs.
His solicitor, Stephen Edwards, said it was scandalous that an order of the court had been neutralised because of funding issues.
Mr Edwards said he understood there was a waiting list in the region for addicts to be provided with prescriptions by the health service.
In inner city areas, addicts were given “scripts” on the day of the order, or at least the following day.
But in the Wrexham area there were delays of several weeks because of what he understood to be funding issues.
Magistrates said it was an unsatisfactory state of affairs and they wished to express their extreme concern.
They were trying to assist people by placing them on orders but it was having no positive effect.
Wrexham Magistrates’ Court, sitting at Mold, was told there were only a certain number of methadone prescriptions available. People had to wait for others to complete their courses before they could begin.
Mr Edwards said his client Anthony Brian Beard, 28, of Grosvenor Road, Wrexham, was doing well on his community order, was co-operating with the probation service and was anxious to receive an alternative prescription.
But in view of the delays in providing him with a methadone prescription, he needed a £10 bag of heroin a day, he could not afford it on benefits and he had been caught shoplifting twice.
That was precisely the sort of thing the community order and the drug rehabilitation requirement was aimed at stamping out, he said.
There was a waiting list and he was concerned at how long the delay would be.
Mr Edwards said: “The system seems to be working in other areas.The sooner my client gets the support he needs the better.”
Beard admitted stealing deodorants from Wilkinson’s in Watery Road, Wrexham, on October 11 and October 13.
He was caught on the second occasion after being recognised following the earlier theft.
Magistrates decided to allow his current community order to continue and gave him a conditional discharge for a year for the new offences, with £85 costs and £10
compensation to be paid.