DDN April2022 April 2022 | Page 13

experience recovery organisation ( LERO ) or develop a community interest company ( CIC ). The team dynamic felt full of possibilities .

The steering group ran smoothly and it was full of positivity and great feedback . But it ’ s clear that a lot of hard work has happened – at a fast pace – to create this environment , and a determination to share the vision , particularly with so many partners on board . ‘ We ’ re all just people with a common goal – to move things forward ,’ said George after the meeting . ‘ You hear talk of drug users as hidden populations , but they ’ re not – it could be providers who are hidden in buildings . Peers

are the first people to see trends .’ The team had built skills around naloxone ‘ because of the immediacy ’, but a whole raft of harm reduction initiatives had followed swiftly within six months – training with needle and syringe programmes , sexual health advice and condoms , dry blood spot testing and dealing with drugs litter . ‘ It ’ s really action orientated … we slice straight though ,’ he said , adding that much depended on ‘ the need to get our heads out of bureaucracy and do some straight talking , recognising the strengths of both parties . Then the provider becomes a real asset .’
Svajune Ulinskiene , service manager at Turning Point , agreed that ‘ we ’ re trying to achieve the
same goal ’ and always sought to be inclusive . Peers were a vital part of understanding the needs of the area , she said and had told them at the meeting , ‘ the knowledge you bring is amazing ’. Doing a care plan meant working with lots of different services , not just substance misuse , to look at what recovery was about for the individual . Assessing and adjusting how services operated involved talking to the peers and then thinking about the evidence .
While Turning Point had always worked with peers , COVID had led them to work in a different way , she said : ‘ Before , we were risk averse , but we had to change and act quickly . It changed the clinicians ’ thinking .’ They needed to listen , respond and work closely together to make sure help reached those who depended on it .
Jo Payne , volunteer and building recovery coordinator , has worked with Open Road since 2018 and has seen the peer support develop as the partnerships have evolved . The peer projects now reach into all areas of work – outreach , naloxone , sexual health , the hep C clinic , rough sleeper initiatives with the council , the Ladies ’ Night project with sex workers . With 24
A lot of hard work has happened , and at a fast pace , to create this environment , with a determination to share the vision .
peer mentors , ‘ it ’ s known as a safe place to be ,’ she says . Furthermore , ‘ peer mentor support has become integral to services ’ and peer mentors regularly work at Turning Point , co-facilitating groups .
It ’ s also given the capacity to develop partnerships to integrate into communities , she explains , with relapse prevention groups , and diversionary projects such as allotments , art and mindfulness . The walls of their space at Open Road are covered in paintings and a community arts exhibition is being planned for July . ‘ We ’ re known for the social side here ,’ she says .
Leaving the building with a group of peers proves the point , as Brian advances on the group , all hugs and smiles . His desperate years of alcohol , fighting and prison are behind him , he says . Through embarking on college courses he was put in touch with Open Road , and his life changed . He found the support he needed , discovered love and happiness , and ‘ never looked back ’. ‘ It ’ s nice to be on the giving end ,’ he says , heading into the service to play his part . And so the network keeps growing and flourishing , stronger for the experience of every member . DDN