DDN July_Aug_2022 DDN July/August 2022 | Page 14


All Together Now ’ s vibrant afternoon session celebrated the many facets of peer power


’ m a drug war veteran ,’ George Charlton of the peer-led Medway Hope outreach project told the conference . ‘ I was let down by a system that called me a junkie and a smackhead and a piece of shit , and said I wasn ’ t worth anything . I didn ’ t believe I was worth anything . I was written off , stigmatised , demonised , vilified . But with love and compassion and support and hope , we do recover .’
Medway Hope ’ s focus was on reducing drug-related harms across the Medway district , facilitated by people with lived experience . ‘ Peer-led everything ,’ he said . ‘ We don ’ t need more professionals . We need more lived experience and living experience . We need it embedded in every fucking part of the treatment system .’
The project had ‘ given me a new lease of life ,’ said Julia . ‘ I ’ ve found confidence , self-esteem and direction . Life ’ s good today – I live in the light , I don ’ t live in the dark .’ Whereas some of the bigger treatment agencies ‘ just hand out ’ naloxone , Medway Hope trained
‘ Peer-led everything ... We don ’ t need more professionals . We need more lived experience and living experience . ’
GEORGE CHARLTON people in how to use it properly , she said . ‘ Mine came through the letterbox with no instructions – I would have just whacked it all in .’
The project also cleaned up drug litter , Matt told the conference . ‘ Twenty years ago in Medway you couldn ’ t walk through an alleyway or a children ’ s playground without seeing syringes everywhere . Now I haven ’ t seen one for sixth months at least .’
PASSIONATE AND COMMITTED Medway Hope ’ s peers were passionate and committed to saving lives and making a difference , said volunteer and recovery coordinator for Open Road , Jo . ‘ They embrace all opportunities to develop the project and increase their knowledge and skills . I feel privileged to work
alongside the peers and watch them grow in their own personal development , and collectively as a group . They ’ ve gone from strength to strength , growing in confidence and self-belief , establishing their own roles , chairing meetings , networking and meeting professionals and partner agencies . I don ’ t have the words to tell you how proud I am of their achievements .’
LIVING EXPERIENCE Mat Southwell of EuroNPUD had been working with Cranstoun Sandwell to look at the development of peer-to-peer approaches , he told the conference , particularly around naloxone . ‘ I think it ’ s really important to see active drug user organising starting to come back into UK work . We talk a lot about lived experience , without remembering that people with living experience are engaging with those people engaged in active risk now .’ The Sandwell Project SCORE team , as a group of active drug users , had also been helping to engage the