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Sign on the line!
A war on drugs has been declared in Staffordshire as the county council propose to slash funding for drug and alcohol services by 59 per cent. Alcohol and drug treatment and rehabilitation services in the county have come together with services users, family members, politicians, celebrity supporters such as Russell Brand and Mitch Winehouse and members from across communities in Staffordshire, to fight these proposals.
They hope that once the serious consequences and the devastation this will have on communities across Staffordshire is understood, the council will reconsider and work with the agencies to ensure the needs of local individuals, families and communities are met.
Addiction to drug and alcohol takes a heavy toll on society. I have seen the impact over 22 years from crime, worklessness, the strains on the NHS and the price paid by individuals and their families, but I have also witnessed hundreds of people overcome their addiction and transform their lives to become productive members of society.
A number of services have contacted us, expressing not only their concern for Staffordshire but also about other local authorities expressing their intentions to make huge cuts to budgets. We were always concerned about funding for drug and alcohol treatment and rehabilitation when the ring fence came off the budget, but I never imagined that councillors would cut budgets to these vital services by more than half.
The consequences will be far reaching for individuals, families and communities. The work undertaken by drug and alcohol agencies reduces crime, pressure on our already stretched A&E and hospitals, reduces the number of children on the at-risk register, to name a few, but most importantly it saves lives and re-builds families.
As a result we have started a petition in Staffordshire and want enough signatures to get the issue debated in Parliament as to why the ring-fence came off drug and alcohol treatment and rehabilitation budgets. These services are as vital as many other NHS services that have been protected. Therefore it is essential that everybody signs this petition and encourages staff, clients and family members to do the same.
The petition can be found at https://staffordshirerecoverymatters.wordpress.com/
In Bournemouth we had a day centre that was open all day for the homeless. We did activities such as cooking, art, group chats (usually serious), coffee and chats (usually lighthearted), strawberry picking, photography competitions, quizzes, cinema outings, service user involvement, an extensive diversity calender full of famous people’s birthdays or important dates (some fun, some serious) as well as assessing people for housing.
We had a daily doctor, weekly mental health nurse (who would also come out other times if needed), weekly podiatrist, weekly blood-borne virus nurse, and a dentist. We would also refer to the drug and alcohol teams. We tried to fill each day with something.
Since the council decided to close it, the amount of drug and alcohol use in the town has escalated, which also means more begging and crime. Police are caught up in almost petty stuff, then the courts and prisons are full with people for short sentences – no time to be rehabilitated and no staff even if they were there longer. Bournemouth cut the day centre to save money. The actual cost was about £25,000 a year. (There was only one paid member of staff. All the outings were paid for by car boot sales from donations and the service users helped out, meaning they were trusted and felt valued.)
The service users were involved in things – their opinions counted. We even had litter collecting mornings with local police community support officers which built up relationships – both ways. Now the same people sit in shop doorways and parks, heavily under the influence, which affects the town. They are so bored and need something to numb their reality – drugs and alcohol do that
The supported housing providers want them to address their using, drinking and begging, so some would rather sleep out than live there. I’m not saying the day centre was perfect. It wasn’t.
More staff would have helped. But it helped make street homeless feel part of society for a short while. When a young, homeless female sitting in an Orange Wednesday cinema seat, eating Asda’s own popcorn, drinking Asda Cola, looks up and says ‘I feel so spoilt’, then you know something good is happening. If she hadn’t been there she would’ve been selling her body to raise money for drugs.
Keeping active surely must be a massive contributor to staying away from mood-altering substances. Minds need to be occupied. Bournemouth council took that away.
Sally Howells, via DDN magazine Facebook
Help us help
The long-awaited DDN Help resource is now ready to go live, but we need your help before the official public launch.
This new free online treatment finder will allow people looking for help with drugs and alcohol to locate the best service for them. This might be anything from the nearest needle exchange, a local support service, or a five-star residential rehab based overseas.
Set up to work quickly and easily on mobile, desktop PCs and laptops, the new resource offers a location-based search, as well as the ability to filter the response. This is just the start – the new site will be a free source of information for anyone looking for help for themselves or a loved one.
DDN Help is free to both the end user and to services wanting to add themselves – if you run a rehab, day programme, recovery group, or community pharmacy or offer therapy or counselling, you need to make sure you are on our listings. This resource will only be as good as the information it holds, so please join us and make sure you’re part of it.
Visit www.ddnhelp.com today for details on how to add your listing.
DDN magazine and DDN Help are keen to partner with all organisations in the field offering information and support. If you would like to discuss any opportunities or ways in which DDN and your service might work together, please contact me – email@example.com
Ian Ralph, DDN