Drink and Drugs News DDN December 2019 | Page 17

Easy and isolating Michelle felt vulnerable and took comfort in some ‘harmless’ gaming, but a destructive habit was taking hold M Although GamCare has been in operation for more than 20 years, until recently the two treatment services more known to health professionals were Gordon Moody Association, which offers 12-week courses of residential care, and Central and North West London (CNWL) NHS Trust’s London Problem Gambling Clinic. As recently as 2018, the Gambling Commission stated that the ‘absence of any other dedicated NHS provision is striking’. 24 Now, however, a wider network of options is being provided by the National Gambling Treatment Service. This includes another service designed to help people with more serious and complex needs – as with CNWL – which is delivered by Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust in partnership with GamCare. Further services funded by NHS England are scheduled to open in Manchester and Sunderland in 2020, with more to follow. The first dedicated NHS gambling clinic for children has also been announced as part of the NHS long-term plan, to be provided by CNWL. Treatment services should be providing ‘the right mix of a broad range of options’ We established our first gambling peer support hub in 2014, the first accredited outreach programme for gamblers the following year and in 2016 we launched the Don’t Gamble with Health project, which set up support referral services inside betting shops, trained shop staff, and received an award from the Royal Society for Public Health. We now have a second support hub and are launching a peer support programme in partnership with GamCare called Peer Aid, where people with lived experience will be co-designing and managing the project. We also provide training and consultancy work – with the gambling operators but also with sectors like finance and housing. WWW.DRINKANDDRUGSNEWS.COM Time and again we hear from clients that they’ll only expose their gambling when they can speak to someone... who understands the associated shame and isolation y gambling began in 2014. When I started talking to a counsellor I got my laptop out and went through my emails. I thought I’d used two companies – I’d actually used nine. I lost £550,000 on games in less than three years. I had a history of trauma and being abused and had been diagnosed with PTSD. I would drink and have always felt ‘up and down’. National Lottery Scratchcards triggered my gambling. I took out loans – it was so easy and shouldn’t be. I did things I regret every day and eventually I lost the house. My partner is older than me and has had to stop work with arthritis, so we’ll have to go on housing benefit. If I didn’t have my daughter, I wouldn’t be here. Gambling is the most devastating, fast, destructive thing. It changes everything, every relationship, and not for the better. Every day I feel bad about it – the devastation I caused Community work is funded through grants and donations, while training and consultancy services provide another income stream. Our accredited training courses include themes such as safeguarding and understanding gambling co- morbidities – tough issues tackled by combining lived experience with evidence-based approaches. One of our key strategies is upskilling other organisations to work with this issue – we work with health, community and charity partners to train staff and enhance awareness. Our support is very much person-centred, addressing co- morbidities and triggers. What we’re really proud of is that we have staff who’ve been through our others by my actions doesn’t make sense. Everything you don’t want to be, you become. With online gambling it’s so easy and isolating, and you can spend a loan very quickly. After I spent £440,000 one of the companies finally did an affordability check, but they make you a VIP when you are spending at high levels. And if I tried to stop they’d give me incentives – money in my account, Argos vouchers, Red Letter Days – to start again. I thought I’d used two companies – I’d actually used nine. I lost £550,000 on games in less than three years services and are now employed by us. Time and again we hear from clients that they’ll only expose their gambling when they can speak to someone who is going to be non- judgmental and who understands the associated shame and isolation. We treat referrals as a 999 call. We know it could be the next gambling binge that loses that person their home or their savings, and we’ll respond with an offer of support within 48 hours. We’re huge advocates for the power of lived experience. We don’t just want people telling their story – it’s also about creating opportunity for those who’ve lived through trauma and now want to help prevent gambling-related harms. WIDER HEALTH SERIES • DRINK AND DRUGS NEWS • 7