The Early Years
The Office and Outpatient Unit of SAA
Following the founding of SAA in November of 1977, an office and a service center were opened. The office and service center cooperated closely with the alcoholic unit of The Reykjavík Health Center which is run by the city of Reykjavík. All services for alcoholics and their friends and relatives were rendered by six employees. At first, the bulk of the services consisted in disseminating information and assisting those who were about to seek treatment abroad. In addition to these activities, the founding of a rehabilitation center for alcohol and drug abusers was in preparation.
In 1981 the office of SAA, along with other outpatient activities, was moved to a new location at Sídumúli 3-5 in Reykjavík. Sidumuli 3-5 remains the location of the SAA office and outpatient ward. Early on, the division of responsiblities was that SAA would treat alcoholics at the service center while the alcohol unit of the Reykjavík Health Center was responsible for the friends and relatives of the patients. This division was maintained until April 1985 when SAA took over all activities of the alcohol unit of Reykjavík.
The First Detox Facilities
SAA started a small reception department for the detoxification of alcoholics and other drug abusers in December 1977. The reception department was also responsible for offering the patients initial treatment. This clinic was established in Reykjadalur in Mosfellssveit just outside of Reykjavík. The clinic was capable of housing twenty patients at a time. In the summer of 1978 the clinic was moved to Langholtsskóli (a school building located in Reykjavík) and all activities there run from two school rooms over a period of three months. In spite of these limited facilities, 753 patients were admitted to the clinic in 1978. In May 1979 the clinic was moved to Silungapollur just outside of Reykjavík. At that juncture, the clinic was capable of housing 37 patients at a time. From 1980 to 1983 there were around 1.150 admissions per annum.
In a letter dated the 9th of October 1981, the Mayor of Reykjavík announced to the SAA board of directors that they had been allotted a site by Storhofdi in Grafarvogur on the periphery of the city of Reykjavik. The building comission for the new Vogur Hospital was established in January 1982. Bids from contractors were accepted from July 1982. The President of Iceland, Mrs. Vigdis Finnbogadóttir took the first depth of a shovel on the 14th of August 1983.
A Bigger Role in Iceland’s Health System
The activities of the SAA clinic have undergone significant changes since the founding of the institution and the role which SAA clinics play in the Icelandic health sector has expanded steadily. When the organization moved its base of operation to Vogur Hospital in 1983-1984 the scope of SAA´s activities became even more comprehensive. Emergency admissions have grown more frequent. Both medical doctors and health care organization have taken advantage of these services by increasingly referring their patients to SAA. The percentage of patients suffering from acute illnesses or excessive drunkeness has increased. Vogur has developed over the years into an effective medical institution where twenty-four hour medical service is offered and a medical staff is on the alert at all hours. There are now four medical doctors employed at Vogur Hospital, and seven nurses are on the staff to assist in the detoxification of patients, in addition to seven other staff members in paramedical capacities. Along with detoxification, the patients are offered a treatment program whose aim is helping them to achieve long-term abstinence.
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