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Rehab centre cuts may push up healthcare costs, charity boss warns

The A-Clinic addiction treatment organisation announced on Monday that it will begin talks with its 800 employees over how to reduce its budget by 4 percent by the end of this year. The foundation’s managing director warns the cuts may cause extra strain on local health services.

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A-Clinic says they provide help to gambling addicts who are on their way to hitting rock bottom. Image: Yle

Finland’s best-known non-profit addiction treatment organisation, the A-Clinic Foundation, is to begin negotiations with its 800 employees over how to make 1.7 milllion euros’ worth of savings by the end of this year.

The organisation, which offers rehabilitation and treatment to 30,000 sufferers of alcohol, drugs and gambling addiction every year, insists it will find ways to make savings that do not fundamentally compromise care services or the continuity of care.

Olavi Kaukonen, A-Clinic’s managing director, says savings will be sought in all large towns. “There will be particular reductions in rehabilitation services,” he said, adding that this is likely to have a knock-on effect for local health authorities.

Where municipalities cannot afford to run rehab services, other local services will have to provide care in their place, Kaukonen warned. “This could in turn increase healthcare costs,” he said.

This year the foundation has served notably fewer customers than previously, and says it will look to adjust its activities accordingly. A-Clinic operates national services as well as a network of local branches across Finland.

A-Clinic says it is hoping to avoid any redundancies.

“People have lost their home and even their family”

Vesa-Matti Lehtinen, who works in Pori’s A-Clinic offering help to gambling addicts, said that the organisation offers vital help when people are on their way to hitting rock bottom. “Normally by the time a person comes to us for help they’ve already lost a large sum of money; perhaps also their home and even their family,” he said.

Staff at the centre receive daily calls asking for help with gambling dependency, either for the caller themselves or a close relation, Lehtinen said. Many more requests come through the internet, where the organisation can offer anonymous peer support.

He said that the rise of internet betting sites means that nowadays the foundation’s clients can just as easily be young mothers, who sit up and play online once the children are in bed, as well as pensioners who are addicted to fruit machines.

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