The service will be located in a rural setting, ideal for a facility that combines treatment for substance use and mental health needs with the therapeutic benefits of the natural environment.
We will offer support for people to address their health and social care needs, support the rural economy and conserve our shared natural environment.
This is an ideal combination of sustainable personal and environmental growth and recovery.
We have long understood the value of connecting to our environment to support mental health and wellbeing. In 2001, we developed a therapeutic approach to support people in treatment for drug and alcohol issues to connect to nature and open spaces.
Over the last 20 years, this work has contributed to the conservation and environmental regeneration of many areas across the UK. Find out more here.
Questions and Answers
Over the last few months, we’ve received a wide range of questions about the service, location and concept for the new service. We’ve tried to bring together the most common questions and answers here.
Should members of the local community have any concerns about their safety?
The safety of residents, staff and our neighbours is essential, and the way we work purposefully ensures that everyone is kept safe. We operate just like any other responsible care home or healthcare services in that we have appropriate and rigorous processes and policies in place to ensure everyone’s wellbeing. People seeking our support are looking for a peaceful drug and alcohol-free environment to continue their recovery. As such, we have never had any incidents that affect the safety of our neighbours.
But it is important that we do not conflate the health condition of mental health and substance dependency as being experienced by people who are inherently a risk to others. This has the effect of stigmatising what is a treatable health condition experienced by people from all walks of life and stops people from coming forward for help.
How is the service managed and regulated?
We provide Care Inspectorate-registered and regulated residential care (CQC registered in England). Our services are staffed 24/7 by an expert staff team. For this type of service, we do not provide access on a crisis/immediate access basis. Residents have a thorough assessment to ensure we can meet their needs and arrive on a pre-determined date and time. Phoenix has a comprehensive care governance structure that ensures our services are safe and effective.
Will there be an increase in traffic in the area?
Yes, because the property has been closed for some time when we open, there will be, but we keep car usage to a minimum. Residents are not allowed to bring cars with them. The service will use minibuses for trips out. Visits to the service are all pre-planned.
Will you rename the service?
Yes, we’ll work with stakeholders of the service to come up with a new name.
Does conservation-based therapy for substance use and mental health needs really work?
Yes, conservation therapy is an effective element of the overall support we will offer, which will also include the benefits of evidence-based approaches such as Therapeutic Community, CBT, motivational interviewing and goal setting amongst others.
This is what the NHS says about green therapies and mental health
- “Conservation activity groups can offer the opportunity to connect with others, improving communication and social skills. Other benefits include reducing the feeling of isolation or exclusion, which can often be the case with people who have a learning disability.
- Being outdoors and participating in Green Therapy activities has been known to reduce stress, anxiety and depression.
- Improved mental health through increased self-esteem, confidence and sense of achievement.
- Acquiring new skills to improve the chances of finding employment.
- Environmental Art projects can offer opportunities for self-expression, creativity and communication.
- Animal-assisted interventions involve being in spaces such as farms or coming into contact with animals, spending time feeding, grooming or petting them. It is evidenced that contact with animals is beneficial in many ways, including reducing stress, anxiety, grief and isolation.”
How is the service funded?
We’re working with the Scottish Government to support the North East of Scotland with residential treatment opportunities. Placements at our services are typically funded by Alcohol and Drug Partnerships across Scotland. At present, people travel from the North East to use our Glasgow-based service. We anticipate this new location in Aberdeenshire will mean that people don’t need to travel as far for this type of treatment and support.
Will there be children resident at the service?
No, we provide national specialist treatment services for Scotland in Saltcoats called Harper House and England in Sheffield. The Aberdeenshire property is not suitable for families. Our Scottish and English family services require specific facilities and community links.
How will you cope with severe winter weather that affects access to roads and possible winter electricity outages?
We’re aware of several factors that may affect business continuity. Through our risk assessment and mitigation process, we will ensure that the service is fully operational all year around. We’re working on this now, and all mitigations will be in place well before opening.
All locations have pros and cons, so this form of planning is something we are used to. Severe weather events are occurring more frequently in recent years, but we will be prepared for all eventualities.
Will you be adding more buildings and bedrooms to the existing plans? Your original grant funding proposed 80 beds.
No more beds will be added in this location.
The original grant application and award to develop this service occurred before Phoenix identified a property suitable for the service's location. Following the identification of the property, completion of a study of the local area and consultation with local residents, the proposal has been updated accordingly.
In the updated proposal (which has been presented locally to residents and makes up the planning submission) the total number of beds provided at the residential service will be 27. This is fewer beds than the previous Care Home capacity. Additional beds will be provided through a quasi-residential service (structured day service with supported housing) in a different location with more population density and better transport links.
We have a design for the 27-bed residential service that meets Care Inspectorate standards and will provide a comfortable and attractive therapeutic environment for this much-needed provision. We will ensure that the service has robust utility provisions, and as such, we are working with surveyors to establish water sufficiency and pressure for 27 residents.
How are you meeting a local need?
Substance dependency and mental health conditions are treatable and manageable conditions. However, an inability to access suitable support services can lead to prolonged and unnecessary health harms and an increased risk of drug and alcohol-related deaths.
60% of people accessing our residential services have had problems with alcohol use that are a risk to their health. We also support people with problems with other drugs, both illicit and prescribed. Residential services, along with other forms of harm reduction and treatment, are an essential component of preventing health risks from drugs and alcohol. For example, alcohol use is the biggest risk factor for death, ill health and disability among 15-49 year olds in the UK and the fifth biggest risk factor across all ages. Alcohol is a causal factor in more than 60 medical conditions, including mouth, throat, stomach, liver and breast cancers, high blood pressure, cirrhosis of the liver, and depression (OHID). Providing support for substance use, such as this services, prevents severe and chronic health conditions, reduces the burden on a wide range of healthcare services and alleviates suffering for families and communities.
Access to the residential service will be through local referrals, supporting people across the North East of Scotland who are currently unable to access the support they need. As such, the service will bring health and social care resources to the area to complement local health and social care infrastructure. The service is planned to be almost entirely self-sufficient, and as well as alleviating stress on local mental health treatment services, it will bring investment to the area in the form of employment and income for local businesses.
How will we support people with a range of needs in this location?
Phoenix works flexibly with a network of partner charities and support agencies to ensure residents’ holistic needs can be fully met.
A lot of our contact with partner agencies is face-to-face and by telephone. Having operated successfully through the COVID lockdown, when access to partnership support was severely limited, Phoenix has also developed techniques to access a wide range of support remotely using online video conferencing technology. For example, families and professionals can attend care reviews remotely through a blended face-to-face and remote (online) support approach. Residents can access a wide range of therapeutic and social support whilst benefitting from the rural physical setting of the service.
As the service is in a rural setting, what activities can residents take part in?
Phoenix has a long track record in conservation therapy and pioneered ecotherapy for substance use and mental health treatment. The service location provides a wealth of opportunities to bring this specialism to the region to support the rural economy and conserve the natural environment. The service will use its own minibus and people carriers to enable residents to access conservation projects that will benefit the whole community.
Will you need to have an interest in conservation to use the service?
No, we look at conservation in a number of different ways, for example, we contribute practically to hands-on conservation projects off-site as well as onsite. We support educational projects, craft and arts-based activities. We also learn about food and nutrition, grow some of our fruits and vegetables and support people in developing cooking skills in our kitchens. So there is something for everyone.
But we hope people will generate an interest in conservation and a connection to the natural environment throughout their stay as part of the range of support available at the service.
What aftercare do you provide?
On completion of the treatment programme, the residents will return to their own homes. Everyone returns with a comprehensive aftercare plan that considers ongoing health and social support. We will continue to support people remotely through online 121 and group support as required.
There are pressures on local medical services such as GPs and A&E. Have you considered this?
The proposed service will not support people with complex physical health needs that are better met in a medical environment. All medical needs are assessed to ensure they can be met by the service prior to access. The service does not provide crisis care. All admissions are on a pre-planned basis.
Phoenix’s residents are in relatively good physical health and generally require less support than an older person’s care home. In all the areas Phoenix operate, access to GPs is a concern, and Phoenix will be liaising with the local practice to fully understand the issues they face. We anticipate being quite self-sufficient in supporting the medical needs of clients through our onsite registered nurse who work as part of a national nurse team. We are also able to provide remote access to medical support for clients through online consultations. This should reduce the impact on the local practice to an absolute minimum.
In addition, as a provider of substance use and mental health services, we hope to be able to support local people through the service and alleviate pressure on the local GP services.
How are you engaging the local community?
Over the next 12 months, we’ll be working with local residents and businesses, health and social care professionals, the recovery community and many others to shape the service provision.
We use defined evidence-based methods to support people and coproduce our approach in each region to meet local needs. This may mean adapting our programmes to have a different emphasis based on what’s needed.
How will people access the service?
Once the service is up and running, anyone interested should approach their local substance use service. Different processes apply in each region, but typically, there will be a thorough assessment to ensure we can meet your needs and understand the support we offer.
How will you attract staff to work at the service?
We hope to recruit as many staff as possible from the local area, providing employment opportunities and investment for the region. We are currently developing different means of developing the skills and experience required to work with us, which will be launched in the near future.
Will you support local businesses?
Yes, as a carbon-neutral charity, we seek to purchase food locally to reduce food miles. We use local maintenance services for our properties, and we support local charities and social enterprises through volunteering.
Your other residential services tend to be in cities or towns, why choose this location?
In the past Phoenix have provided residential services in rural areas. At present, our residential services are in more urban areas and we provide community based services across rural regions. All locations have pros and cons. All our services take part in conservation activities, and this new service provides an ideal opportunity to use our decades of experience to create a service that will support people to connect with nature and lead happy and healthy lives.