DDN April2022 April 2022 - Page 12

PEER PARTNERSHIPS

OPENING DOORS

Peers in Medway are taking partnerships to a new level with impressive results . DDN sees them in action

A

man in a grey tracksuit wanders around Chatham High Street , duffle bag in one hand , drink can in the other . He ’ s newly released from prison with nowhere to head and no real plan .
Jenna and Sam spot him and head over with a casual ‘ how ’ s it going ?’ They ’ re peer workers at Medway Hope – part of Open Road ’ s support and recovery network in partnership with Turning Point – and within minutes they ’ ve established that he needs meds as well as somewhere to stay . A quick phone call and he ’ s booked in for a prescription and linked to local services . He seems surprised – and grateful to be in the right place at the right time .
For Jenna and Sam – and their peers at Medway Hope – this is always a good place , and using their Red Card scheme makes it easier for it to be the right time . The scheme represents a hotline to services , meaning they can call a colleague and arrange a fast-track appointment for someone they come across who is ready for help . It opens the door to services and makes it much easier for someone to walk through it .
The team brandish naloxone
The Red Card scheme represents a hotline to services , meaning a fast-track appointment for someone who is ready for help .
kits when they ’ re out and about – a conversation starter as well as a vital harm reduction intervention . They wear their naloxone shirts and are proud to spread the word as Medway naloxone peers . On their route down the high street they stop to talk to two young men who are willing to hear more and engage in answering some questions – ‘ What are the main causes of an overdose ? When are the high-risk times ? What are the signs and symptoms of an overdose ? What should you not do in an overdose situation …?’ The men carry on their way with naloxone kits and the knowledge and confidence to use them , saying they ‘ learned something very useful ’.
But the peers ’ work is not just about giving out kits . ‘ I target anybody and everybody that ’ ll listen to me ,’ says Sam . ‘ It ’ s about throwing myself in the deep end , saying you might not use drugs yourself but be around someone who does . It ’ s generally well received .’

Stepping through a modest door on the high street offers up a warm welcome at Open Road , with comfy chairs , coffee and cheerful chatter . Art adorns the walls and it ’ s a bright and creative space . Today the Medway Hope naloxone champion steering group has assembled – peers , commissioners and colleagues from the providers , Turning Point and Open Road , who work closely together to offer drug and alcohol services and recovery support . The forum is also regularly attended by representatives from police and the local council , who link with the many services across immigration , community safety , housing and health . George Charlton – consultant , trainer and ‘ Naloxone Man ’, who has been supporting the peers – has come down from the North East and all the participants are ‘ buzzing ’ to see each other . As they work through an agenda that covers their progress over the last few months they realise their partnership working is paying off and results are tangible – for clients and for the team members themselves . The growth and development of the peer group is an important part of this story .

From tentative beginnings and with a lot of encouragement and ( justified ) positive feedback , the peers have gone from strength to strength and grown in confidence . The Open Road PREMIER Award takes pride of place in the reception area and they explain that it ’ s the first time that a project , rather than a service , has won it – all achieved in six months . ‘ You ’ re leading the way , cutting your own path ,’ George tells them . ‘ People are here today because of your interventions .
Everyone seems motivated by the momentum and keen to grow the partnership . Commissioner Claire Hurcum has been a key facilitator , and says she is proud of what the team of five peers have achieved together in six months . ‘ I can see the growth in all of you . As commissioners we ’ re really pleased – you should be really proud of yourselves ,’ she tells them . She hoped there would be further expansion of the team ’ s work , and that it would lead to them becoming a peer-led support network . With George ’ s encouragement , the group went on to discuss next steps and aspirations – perhaps they could become a lived
12 • DRINK AND DRUGS NEWS • APRIL 2022 WWW . DRINKANDDRUGSNEWS . COM