Drink and Drugs News DDN February 2019 | Page 11

ExchangE How a unique partnership between UK Steel Enterprise and a local treatment service is helping to provide much- needed support on Teeside GETTING BACK ON ‘TRAC’ FUNDING of £2,220 from UK Steel Enterprise’s (UKSE) community support fund is helping to launch an innovative community project in Middlesbrough. TRAC UK, which helps people on Teesside recover from substance and mental health issues, is using the money to start a six-month pilot project to support up to 12 people in two properties, with two full-time staff. There will be additional support from a volunteer social psychologist and TRAC volunteer advocates to provide tailored recovery plans, with the aim of expanding the scheme to include more staff and properties. TRAC UK was founded in 2015 by director Annalice Sibley and provides outreach, help with housing and health issues, and a women-only online recovery service. ‘We have a great team of workers and volunteers here, and we were thrilled to hear that UK Steel Enterprise had agreed to help us with this new project,’ she says. ‘There is a big gap for this type of model as it can be easy for people to fall back into old habits if they need to go out of their area to a rehabilitation facility. Clients have told us that being in their local community during recovery would really benefit them. Many are experiencing extreme isolation from mainstream society and need help to access services and work towards recovery and an independent existence.’ While UKSE is usually about supporting businesses with finance and premises, says business development manager Peter Taylor, its special community support fund exists to support projects ‘run by a range of organisations that help to improve the quality of daily life for people living in our steel areas’. Working in the community also means that TRAC can engage intensively with clients to identify their needs, stresses project administrator Brian Hutchinson. ‘Support can range from assistance to get to appointments to group support and one-to-one sessions that help them get to the bottom of their problems, gain a better understanding of their illness and take steps towards recovery.’ More information on UKSE support for community projects at www.uksteelenterprise.co.uk A sAfe gAtewAy Police are piloting a heath-based approach to drug possession, heard MPs at a recent APPG ‘ARRESTING SOMEONE FOR POSSESSION of drugs is usually a deterrent, but the real cost is the rate of drug- related deaths,’ chief inspector Jason Kew from Thames Valley Police told the Drugs, Alcohol and Justice Cross- Party Parliamentary Group. These thoughts had led to his force piloting a diversion scheme in West Berkshire as a gateway to reducing harm. As Dr Wojciech Spyt explained, the scheme aimed to reduce drug-related deaths and drug use, tackle drug-related offending and cut costs to the criminal justice system and other agencies. The option of treatment would be presented before arrest and did not involve the courts, unlike previous diversion schemes – as long as the person had a quantity small enough for personal use and passed an ID check. Adults were referred to a service provider in their area and young people to the youth offending team (YOT). In their area, adults were referred to Swanswell, where an initial assessment provided a tailored approach. This could involve drug education for first- time offenders, or a number of treatment pathways for those with more entrenched issues around drugs and mental health. www.drinkanddrugsnews.com The resulting headlines in the media, about ‘going soft’ on drug users, did not reflect the benefits of the scheme, said DCI Lee Barnham. Police officers liked the scheme as it gave them a quick and straightforward route for dealing with people caught in possession of drugs, giving them the time to ‘We are locking up people that don’t need locking up – they need help and treatment.’ concentrate on pursuing suppliers. The scheme would run until March, when it would be evaluated and options considered for a further roll-out. One of the main challenges would be finding the funding required for the treatment agency to deal with more referrals. ‘We acknowledge that the majority of drug use is not problematic,’ said Kew. ‘The idea is to get people familiar with the drug service to reduce drug-related deaths. The aim is for it to be a safe gateway and non-stigmatising.’ The need to change the approach to drug policing was supported by Suzanne Sharkey of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) – a group of criminal justice professionals campaigning for an evidence-based drug strategy led by harm reduction. A former police officer in the 1990s, working with undercover drugs teams, Sharkey had personal reasons for being passionate about changing policing methods. She had experienced addiction to drugs and alcohol and become homeless and estranged from her children for a period. She felt that the stigma of the situation made it harder for her – and many other women – to engage with treatment and rehab because of fear of social services. Coming from the North East, she believed much of the social deprivation she had seen was at the route of many issues with drugs and alcohol, and echoed the call for a health-based approach. ‘We are locking up people that don’t need locking up – they need help and treatment,’ she said. February 2019 | drinkanddrugsnews | 11