Phoenix Chief Exec Karen Biggs blogs about the impact of COVID-19 on the people who rely on drug and alcohol treatment services.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many people in society to a crisis point. People who were already struggling to access the health and social care they desperately need. When society opens its doors again it will reveal a tsunami of need which we should be ready to meet.
Many people use drugs and alcohol to try to numb pain and smother deeply traumatic experiences. Many more of us would too, if faced with similar circumstances. People who use drugs have always been invisible; labelled as ‘hard to reach’ or ‘too complex’.
They are not; the reality is that decision-makers and funders haven’t spent the time and money required to reach out, understand and help. There are many reasons for that – poverty, entrenched stigma across society and the sense of some people are more deserving than others. What is clear now that is that we don’t need to argue anymore about whether or not that is true. It is fact, proven, accepted and understood – no matter how hard it is to stomach.
‘Funding reductions are exacerbating gaps in treatment provision. As funding pressures have increased some services have disappeared altogether (such as outreach service targeting newer users), whilst others have been rationed (such as inpatient detoxification for people with complex and multiple problems heroin assisted treatment and residential rehabilitation.)’
Professor Dame Carol Black
So, what happens when people who are already struggling to stay alive lose the fragile links to the support they have? Lose the opportunity to be with others with the same shared experiences of life? When people lose their sense of belonging? The answer: negative thoughts, relapse, self-harm, overdose, suicide and death.
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