It’s a sense of mission that’s kept Elaine Atkinson going in the last 12 months. Atkinson founded the Ocean Hills Detox and Rehabilitation facility in Hastings, back in June 2019.

The private drug and alcohol clinic has since relocated to Napier, where it encountered the same challenges faced by many Hawke’s Bay service providers in recent times.

“We were doing really well up until the cyclone and then, like all businesses that rely on people coming in from out of town, we suffered,’’ Atkinson told BayBuzz. “The news and media just kept saying Hawke’s Bay was closed and broken.’’

Clients pay up to $6000 a week for Ocean Hills’ residential rehab programme and those numbers definitely dwindled following Cyclone Gabrielle.

Elaine Atkinson

“In terms of last year, I was receiving a salary from the business. That all had to stop and we just had to really batten down the hatches, reduce every bit of cost out of the business but not compromise the programme we produce for our clients,’’ said Atkinson.

“Since we’ve opened the business, we then went into the Covid lockdown. During the first Covid lockdown, our clients went home. The other lockdown, the clients stayed because it was better to stay here and get educated on how to get well and live a life of sobriety.

“After the Covid lockdowns ended our business increased, so to speak, because there were a lot of people drinking at home and working at home.’’

Finding premises for Atkinson’s business hasn’t always been straightforward.

There’s, what she calls, “a discrimination around addiction’’ and people can be reluctant to lease a property for Ocean Hills’ purpose. They imagine a procession of junkies and meth addicts, rather than the people Atkinson’s team of clinicians and peer-support staff help.

“Our clientele are people who are still in the community, still working, still holding down some fairly prestigious jobs and drinking and drugging outside of their workplace,’’ Atkinson said.

For that reason, there’s no signage on buildings or vehicles in an effort to provide the discretion that clients demand.

Eighteen years sober herself, Atkinson tackles this business in the same way she does her addiction. Rather than retreating from the world, she upped Ocean Hills’ advertising spend, sought interviews and did everything she could to remind people that this region was open for business.

Her confidence levels are now “very high’’ that Ocean Hills can continue to provide people with the tools to enjoy life without drugs and alcohol. “It’s a day at a time. You just have to keep trusting that process,’’ said Atkinson.

“There’s still a lot of people to help, there’s still more work for us to do. We’re not finished yet.’’

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air


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