Reflection of hope

With their roots in harm reduction services, Kaleidoscope Project provide both community and residential drug and alcohol treatment. Their new 20-bed detoxification unit in Merseyside continues their tradition of providing life-changing support for every individual. 

Birchwood Residential Treatment Centre

‘For the last 49 years Kaleidoscope has worked with some of the most marginalised clients with the highest need,’ explains chief executive Martin Blakebrough. So when the opportunity came up to incorporate Arch Initiatives into the Kaleidoscope family and add to the residential detox facilities at Birchwood House, it seemed a logical step for the organisation.

The move was never part of an attempt to become ‘the next big player’, Blakebrough emphasises, but rather a natural progression for Kaleidoscope. ‘Running Birchwood provides a chance to develop a bespoke inpatient treatment facility. A place that can support a broad range of clients, including those with complex needs.’

To achieve this, it was important to have the right team in place, which Blakebrough is confident about. ‘In Kaleidoscope executive lead, Rondine Molinaro we have someone who is passionate and knows what is required, but is looking to learn from the latest research and thinking,’ he says. ‘And our clinical team of full-time NMPs and substance misuse nurses working alongside both a GP and a consultant psychiatrist allows us to accept people with significant difficulties.’

The unit at Birchwood comprises 20 single occupancy bedrooms, including three on the lower floor for those with specific requirements or mobility issues. The service is for both men and women, including pregnant women and those with complex needs. The newly refurbished rooms and the superb onsite catering help to create that ‘home away from home’ feel that provides the right therapeutic atmosphere for clients’ treatment.

Staff provide treatment tailored to the needs of the client

‘Within Birchwood we offer a flexible, individually tailored treatment regime, by carefully screening all potential admissions to ensure that we can safely assist the withdrawal of substances,’ explains Birchwood’s clinical director, Dr Mohan De Silva. ‘Medical screening is done by a doctor. We look at GP medical history, previous hospital letters, any previous detox experiences, current medication and recent blood investigations. Having as complete a history as possible enables us to build a picture of the health of the patient and ensure their safety while at Birchwood.’

A range of programmes are offered for opiates, NSPs, stimulants, prescription medications and alcohol. These include a rapid five to seven day detox programme for individuals requiring urgent detoxification, a three to four day stabilisation and detoxification initiation that will be continued in a community setting, and both standard and complex detoxification programmes that can last between seven and 21 days, depending on the needs of the client. In addition, alternative regimes for alcohol detoxification can be offered, which are non-benzodiazepine based.

‘Having an experienced clinical team on site allows Birchwood to offer this range of interventions,’ says consultant psychiatrist, Dr Julia Lewis from Pulse Addictions. ‘As well as working with them to develop their clinical policies and procedures, I provide regular clinical supervision to their permanent team of experienced nursing staff who are committed to continuous service improvement. The aim of everyone involved in Birchwood is to ensure that the treatment on offer is safe, effective and meets the needs of the client.’

A medical team is based on site

The client-centred approach goes beyond detox, and a range of mutual aid packages are offered, including 12-step, SMART Recovery, and access to the Life Ring service. In addition a weekly health clinic is available to identify wider healthcare issues and other chronic conditions that may have been masked by a client’s drug taking.

The client-centred approach is something that Rondine Molinaro hopes to take beyond treatment provision to the running of Birchwood itself, with a long-term aim to transform it into a social enterprise. This would create the opportunity to provide a free detox space each month to someone who is unable to access funding through conventional means – ‘someone who may need another chance,’ she says.

Central to Kaleidoscope’s culture is an understanding that detox is not a miracle cure, and for many clients may be just part of their journey – an ethos underlined by equipping clients with relapse prevention training, RPM medication, and take-home naloxone on leaving the facility.

What is very clearly on offer at Birchwood is the opportunity for people to reset their lives and make fundamental changes. ‘While this is not a one-fix-wonder, hopefully it can inspire people to live life better,’ says Blakebrough.

Birchwood House residential treatment centre welcomes referrals from a range of clients including statutory, criminal justice and private clients. To find out more please contact executive lead, Rondine Molinaro on 07773 211461 or email

This article appeared in the April issue of DDN Magazine.